Monthly Archives: August 2018

Major Crises – Averted!

When we had our little tire problem a couple of weeks ago, I thought we should be set for smooth sailing for a while. Alas, not so.

We departed our campsite near Kalispell Montana, and headed for a planned rest stop boondocking spot. Montana is one of those States that allow overnight parking at rest stops, and it makes for a very convenient, easy-off-easy-on place to stay. We arrived uneventfully, and settled in for the evening. I started working on dinner preparations while Jeff did his customary rig walk around and inspection.

While pulling out salad fixings, I plucked an avocado from the bag of 3 that was out on the counter. Except, now there were only 2. Uh-oh. One had obviously escaped! I even checked my grocery receipt to verify that there had, indeed, been three originally. I peered around and under everything, to no avail. During our travels, it had bounced out of the bag on the counter and rolled its way into some obscure crevice in one of our retracted slides, out of sight. I had visions of a rotting, stinking, ant-inviting avocado in some inaccessible corner of our rig. Yikes!

While I was contemplating how to break the news to Jeff, he stepped into the bus with a much bigger problem – one of our steer tires was dangerously worn, with steel wires showing. It had escaped notice because it was on the far inside edge of the tire, invisible unless you kneeled down and really looked underneath, and felt with your hands. With just over 10,000 miles on the bus, it  never occurred to us that one of the tires could be worn out. Responding to some insistent inner prompting, Jeff just happened to really look at the inside edge of the tire, thus discovering the problem.

Should we have noticed before it got to this point?  Maybe. But we had JUST had the bus in for service (oil / lube) and those mechanics didn’t spot it either. It was clearly caused by an previously undiagnosed alignment issue, resulting in premature tire failure.

So, now what? Do we drive carefully on the tire to our next campground and deal with it there? Find a tire store and drive to it, hoping they would have the right tire? Or do we stay put and call roadside service to have the tires changed right where we sat?

Taking the conservative route, we opted to call roadside service. That tire was a ticking time bomb and a blowout with a steer tire is Not Good. In fact, it can be Very, Very Bad. It simply wasn’t worth the risk. So, once again, we called our service. The next morning, they were able to dispatch a truck tire service with two new tires, and mounted them for us right at the rest stop. $1300 later, we were on our way, only an hour or so delayed. Better safe than sorry! There is a Cummins/Spartan repair facility on our way to Utah, so we’ll schedule the alignment to be done on our way south.

On two brand new steer tires, we traveled uneventfully to our current camping site in West Yellowstone. As we carefully extended our slides, we discovered the errant avocado lodged in a crevice under the bed slide.

Crisis averted.

Family Fun continues!

imagejpeg_0Our mini-reunion continued once my sister and her husband arrived. Three sisters together! Our brother wasn’t able to join us due to work and school schedules, but he thoughtfully sent an enormous basket of goodies for our enjoyment. What a nice brother! It was delicious.

We were able to get just inside the Glacier National Park west entrance, but not much farther due to road closures. I got my National Park Passport stamp at the Apgar visitor center, but the smoky conditions soon drove us out to cleaner air and other pursuits.

The boys did some fishing on the lake, catching delicious whitefish and lake trout. The girls browsed local shops and chatted. We caught a movie (Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again) and chowed on brick oven pizza. We went to the Bigfork Summer Playhouse and giggled through their production of “All Shook Up”. My sister baked a triple batch of her famous dinner rolls, some of which are in my freezer for future enjoyment!


010Another day we visited the Conrad Mansion Museum, a 1895 stately historic home built by Kalispell founder Charles Conrad. The home passed to Charles’ youngest daughter which was, according to the tour guide, “something of a hoarder”. She kept EVERYTHING, all of her parent’s stuff, all of her stuff, and more stuff besides. The hoarder-house got so bad, she ended up living on the overgrown grounds in a trailer. In the 1970’s she tried to sell the home with no success, and ultimately donated it to the City to use as a museum. A beneficial side effect of her hoarding meant that most of the original furnishings and décor (even the receipts of their purchase) remained for museum display. It was a fascinating tour and a really beautiful home.

Mostly, though, we enjoyed great cooking, great wine, and great conversation at my sister’s beautiful lake home. We simply enjoyed our time together. I am so grateful to be part of a family of siblings who actually like each other and who plan vacations to see one another. We are blessed.


Now we move on to Yellowstone National Park and more fun with friends!

Campground Review: LaSalle RV Park, Columbia Falls, MT

013Campground Review Summary

  • Name: LaSalle Campground
  • Dates of stay: August 11-25, 2018
  • Location: 5618 Hwy 2 West, Columbia Falls 59912
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $43.35/night (weekly rate)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT good
  • Website:
  • Pros: location, accommodating owners
  • Cons: older facility, basic amenities

Full Review

This stay didn’t start off too well. I had booked this site way back in late December. I selected the location because of its central proximity to Big Mountain bicycle trails, Glacier National Park and my sister’s house. I was quoted a price of $200 per week. Delighted at the reasonable price, I booked the site. The owner didn’t take a deposit or send a confirmation email, which made me a bit uneasy, but I figured I’d confirm again later. Sometime in the late Spring, a lady called me to tell me the park was under new ownership and the price would NOW be over 300 a week. Too late to book another location, I reluctantly accepted and forked over a $50 deposit.

Fast forward to campground arrival. We checked in to our assigned gravel pull through site and found it to be both narrow (for us) and un-level. The manager quickly trimmed trees on both sides which allowed us to put our slides out, but no amount of jockeying could get us level without having one tire off of the ground, even with leveling blocks. A few days later a better site became available, so we requested to move. The manager was amenable, so we packed up and moved over 2 spaces. We still needed to trim bushes to open our driver side slide, but the gravel pad was much more level. As a bonus, trees no longer blocked our satellite signal and we had Direct TV again. Kudos to the site manager for accommodating our wishes.

The full hookups worked fine, although the sewer connection was elevated a bit, making dumping more challenging. We used the macerator rather than gravity drain. 50 amp power and water hookup worked fine. No cable TV, but we pulled in several Montana over the air local channels. Our ATT signal worked well.

Campground facilities are very basic. The bathroom and shower facilities are old and showing considerable wear, but kept clean. I found the water temperature to be variable a times. There is a coin laundry facility, a small camp store. and a grassy area with a lone swing set, a basketball hoop with a tattered net and fenced dog run. That’s about it. There appears to be quite a few “permanents” but they aren’t trashy and the campground is very quiet except for some Route 2 highway noise.

The new owner is in the process of making upgrades to the facility and is really trying to make campers happy. They were very nice and helpful when approached, and allowed us to swap sites when requested. But, I think it’s rather expensive considering the current amenities. Maybe in the future it will be better.

Bottom Line: Older campground with limited amenities. Pricey for what you get.

Glacier National Park – closed

We planned this stop way back in late December, when my family was all together for the holidays in Charleston. I booked a campground that was near Columbia Falls due to its central location within reasonable proximity of the Whitefish downhill mountain biking park, Glacier National Park, and my sister’s home south of Bigfork. It was a good plan.

Glacier_Park_Wildfires_34597-780x520What we didn’t anticipate was a lightning storm sparking fires in Glacier National Park the day after we arrived. The fire quickly flared up in the hot, dry conditions, leading to evacuations and closure of the Going to the Sun road on our side of the Park. As it is unlikely that the fires will be fully extinguished until the winter snows, our plans to hike the Park this summer went up in smoke. Literally.

But, not to worry, there is plenty more to do here! Visiting my sister and brother-in-law’s beautiful home on Flathead Lake is always a treat. We’ve been enjoying some great food, wine, and fellowship. They took us out on their new boat for an afternoon lake cruise and a little fishing. And, although cherry season is just past and their small orchard has already been professionally picked, my sister and I gleaned 6 gallon bags of the large, sweet fruit. They are washed, pitted and in our freezers, ready for delicious recipes.

Whitefish is home to a ski resort that also hosts a variety of summer activities. Jeff purchased an all-day lift pass so he could ride up and cruise the downhill bike trails to his heart’s content. I purchased a one way lift ticket up to the top of the mountain, and set off down the Danny-On trail in search of huckleberries. I searched very diligently, but berries were sparse. Either others beat me to it, or the unusually dry conditions have impacted the harvest. I did manage to pick about a cup of berries, which added to the cherries should make a nice cherry/huckleberry cobbler. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

020This weekend is the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo in nearby Kalispell, which we attended last night. I just love county fairs with their carefully-crafted 4-H exhibits, livestock exhibits, and family fun. Being a farming area, they had lots of livestock including horses, mules, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, bunny rabbits, and even llamas and alpacas. The stage was busy with local performance groups demonstrating their clogging, line dancing, and musical skills. After a BBQ sandwich and a visit to the beer garden, we headed to the rodeo arena. This was the real professional deal with all of the trimmings – bronco busting, bull riding, barrel riding, calf roping, the works. These guys and gals are good! All in all, a thoroughly entertaining evening.

And we’re not done! My other sister and her husband arrive tonight for more family fun time together! Just this week she finished her last radiation treatment for breast cancer and we are grateful that her prognosis is excellent. But her health scare is just another reminder that any time together is precious and should be cherished.

Tire Fun

Motorhome life can be a bit – unpredictable.

We pulled into our current campground near Kalispell Montana last weekend, checked in, and headed for our designated site. This older campground was recently purchased by a new owner and has started improving the roads and sites by putting down fresh gravel. Although plenty long enough, the site was narrow (for us), requiring trees to be trimmed on both sides simply to allow us to put our slides out. Once that was accomplished, we attempted to level the bus. Fail. The site was so sloped, that even putting blocks under the rear tires didn’t allow us to completely level the bus. Our auto-level system did its best, but left one of our dually tires an inch off the ground. Not ideal, but we didn’t have a whole lot of other options.

A few days later, a better site appeared to become available, so I approached the office about the possibility of moving, and they said yes, so long as we moved that day. So we prepared to move over 3 spaces – packed up, jacks up, slides in. Then we discovered ….. the tire that had been lifted off the ground was now flat! Yikes. We weren’t going anywhere soon.

We pulled out our small portable air compressor and filled, and filled, and filled. It’s a really big tire! Finally the tire pressurized, but then started  hissing, punctured by an object unknown. Since we still wanted/needed to move, we filled the tire as best we could and hoped it would hold air long enough. We carefully maneuvered over to the new site and re-situated ourselves. This site also required some branch trimming, but was MUCH more level and better situated for us. So one problem solved, but another discovered.

I had the bright idea to call the emergency roadside service number (service provided 3 years for free by Entegra). We weren’t on the side of the road, but they do cover tire issues. They contacted a local tire firm on our behalf, and arranged for them to bring a new tire to our site a couple of days later.

To prepare for our service, we had to pull up the jacks and pull in the slides (again). The tire guy arrived promptly, jacked up the bus, and removed the tire. The “object” was half of a needle nose pliers, spiked right into the tread! Who knows where we may have picked that up. Fortunately, the tire was repairable, so a patch was applied on the spot. Tire re-inflated, remounted, and we were good to go!  The best part: no charge. The service was entirely covered by our Entegra-provided service.

Although somewhat inconvenient, we were also blessed that we didn’t become disabled while on the road in some remote location. The un-level site was blessing in disguise – had we not been adamant about moving, we wouldn’t have discovered the problem until departure day, which would have been much more problematic. And the fix didn’t even cost us anything.

Our angels are watching out for us!

2019 Planning

Plan-AheadWe’re only a little more than halfway through 2018, but we are already looking at our route for next year. We have learned (the hard way) that popular seasonal campgrounds can book up many months (a year or more) in advance, so we are trying to keep ahead of the curve.

Our original thought was to do an east coast loop in 2019. However, we need to be in northern Indiana in June to complete our motorhome’s “post delivery inspection” within 2 years of  purchase. One of the reasons that we chose Entegra was their 2 year warranty and ability to have this inspection and any warranty repair work completed at the factory in Middlebury. Considering the timing and logistics, we are now planning a Midwest loop – pushing the Northeast loop until 2020.

So here’s how it’s shaping up:

  • January through March – in Florida (Orlando, South Florida, Orange City)
  • April – in our Gatlinburg cabin. We’re parking the bus and moving out for the month!
  • May – Mammoth Cave National Park, Brown County State Park (Indiana) and Anderson Indiana  (my home town).
  • June – Warranty work at Entegra, then Michigan City, IN
  • July – Petoskey, MI
  • August – Michigan upper peninsula, Cable WI, and Minneapolis
  • September – Wisconsin Dells, then Illinois, then head to Nashville for a month
  • October – Nashville, Birmingham, Tallahassee, Fort Wilderness (Disney!)
  • November – December:  South Florida

The theme for the year is friends and family:  We’ll have time to visit with our son and his girlfriend in Orlando. Gatlinburg is traditionally a gathering spot for friends and family, with rotating company during our stay at our second home. Then we’ll have several weeks in Indiana, where we have close family on both sides. We’ll be visiting friends in Illinois. Then wintering over in South Florida, our home for 35 years.

This fulltime RV life can be a bit isolating, but it can also afford opportunities for great quality time with loved ones.

Looking forward to it!

Livin’ Like a Local

Live localStaying in one place for a month really saves money. Not only is the campground monthly rate typically much less than the daily/weekly rate, you don’t burn diesel fuel moving the bus around. With more time to see the area, sightseeing costs are spread out. And you can find the local bargain spots.

For example, we signed up for a Haggan grocery store card to qualify for their card discounts and promotions. Buying $40 in local goods, got us a $5 coupon. And we twice qualified for their free picnic promotion:  free package of hot dogs, buns, 32 ounce bottle of lemonade and bag of chips. And all we did was buy the groceries we usually do.  As described earlier, we joined the local casino players club to take advantage of their Golden Groovy days special discounts, like the $5 lunch buffet. Their gas was cheaper too.  Jeff found $2 gallons of milk at the nearby convenience store. The hilarious improv theater show in Bellingham was a deal at $8 each and staying for the following stand-up comedy show cost only $2 more.  You just can’t take advantage of local deals when you’re constantly on the move.

Vacation mode is fun, but slowing the cadence down is more relaxing and definitely has its advantages.

We are currently in transit from the Cedars RV Resort in Ferndale Washington to our next campground spot near Kalispell, Montana. On the way, we stopped at a Cummins Service Center in Spokane for the 6 month oil change on our house.

Cummins has “Coach Care” facilities which are designed to handle recreational vehicles like ours. Most even have special RV parking spots with hookups! We arrived last night and was able to use their 50 amp electrical service instead of running our generator. Our oil change was completed this morning, and we elected to stay put for tonight rather than boondock at a Walmart or someplace down the road. It is going to be 104 degrees in Spokane today, and we would otherwise have to run our generator continuously to keep the air conditioners on. Having access to (free!) electrical service is absolutely fantastic.

Next up:  Glacier National Park and family fun!

Throwback Thursday: Terlingua, TX Mountain Bike Trail Review

Being a full-time adventurer, Jeff sometimes has difficulty carving out time for his trail review posts! What follows is a Throwback Thursday post:  his review of the mountain biking trails near Terlingua Texas, from our stay in the Big Bend area last February!

Terlingua Mountain Biking, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas

img_3603.jpgAfter posting the more intense downhill mountain biking of Whistler, it seemed prudent to post about most of my mountain biking adventures which entail cross-country excursions. Downhill mountain biking is predominantly for adrenalin junkies, although you can spend the day on more mellow downhill pathways provided you stick with the green beginner runs. Terlingua, located directly between Big Bend National and State Parks in south Texas, boasts a thriving population of 58. Every year in February they host the Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Fest where mountain bikers from all over the country explore their many trails at Terlingua and Big Bend State Park. Although we happened to be there about the same time, they capped the event at 500 riders, and unfortunately I was not able to participate. However, the trails prior to the event were very well groomed so it was a fabulous time to explore the trails and a great time to be there given the weather.

Big Bend State Park also happens to be the one of the select places in the US to achieve an Epic Trail designation by the International Mountain Bike Association. Less than 50 places in the US and Canada have that trail designation, so my applause to the Chihuahuan Desert riders who made this happen. IMBA’s Epic, better known as the Fresno-Sauceda Loop, totals 59 miles, although there are many, many more miles of rugged desert single track throughout the area. Although a portion of my exploration entailed the Epic Trail, my focus was mainly on the Dome, East Contraband, and Fresno Divide Loops. The Dome Loop was 19.8 miles and the Fresno Divide Loop was another 9.4 miles. My longest single day was about 23 miles. I also spent time the first day on the Terlingua trails which produced another 16 miles of riding. Overall, after multiple days of riding, I managed to complete 70 miles of trails doing various loops around the two areas. Except for a trail maintenance day in preparation for the event, which yielded a handful of people, I never saw anyone on the trails. This was not due to lack of riders because cars were present at the trailheads, but rather the vast desert environment.



These rides were about solitude and self-reliance. If you venture out, you better be prepared to fix a flat or other mechanical mishaps that may come up. Otherwise, you may have a very long walk back to the car. The scenery was visually stimulating, yielding barren mountains in the background, set among a prickly arid environment. Occasionally I would see a rabbit hopping about, but generally did not see any wildlife during the day. Most wildlife in the desert travels at night, which is fine by me. I managed to see a Bobcat in the distance scurrying across the trail one day and a coyote on another. If you ride out here you better bring plenty of water because the desert literally sucks the moisture out of your body with every pedal stroke. The sun was relentless, but during February the temperatures were not too hot even under direct sun (running about 75 during the day). The riding was mainly intermediate level, but there were occasional technical sections to keep it interesting.

Signs were found occasionally on the trail system which provided history of the area. For instance, one of the signs spoke about the red cinnabar ore (mercury sulfide), which was mined from the 1900s to about 1947. The cinnabar ore was extracted from the ground and cooked in small furnaces until the mercury was distilled out. Little was known about the detrimental health effects of mercury at the time. Harris Smith, owner of the (now defunct) Chisos Mining Company in Terlingua, enjoyed great success with the mine, but it came with a price. Smith was plagued by mercury poisoning, a common ailment among mercury mine workers.  In the 1970s he recalled that “every tooth in my head became loose, and I could no longer eat solid food.” He went on to say, “My diet consisted of bean soup, crackers, coffee, and mouthwash.”

One day I rode deep enough (about 10 miles in) into Big Bend State Park to see one of the abandoned mine processing facilities. There were little support buildings which skirted the mine area, and it was here that I noticed a fairly recent pile of scat on the ground. The scat pile was a little larger than what a large dog would produce, but the shape was similar. What made this scat unique was that it contained a considerable amount of hair. It was definitely something I had not seen before being from Florida, so I snapped a picture for further investigation since my curiosity was peaked. After completing my loop and returning to the car, I dropped by the Ranger Station to ask them what it was. The Ranger asked where I saw this, and I provided the location. He stated, “Yeah, there are some big cats up in that area.” From that point forward I was a little more diligent in constantly surveying my surroundings. I also decided to carry an easily-accessible whistle and knife. Don’t know if either one would ward off a mountain lion, but I felt better having those items ready.

The riding in Terlingua and Big Bend State Park yielded some excellent scenery, some great desert riding, and some interesting wildlife. This one will be on my list again and I highly recommend it!



Campground Review: Cedars RV Resort, Ferndale, WA

057Campground Summary

  • Name: The Cedars RV Resort
  • Dates of stay: July 12 – Aug 8, 2018
  • Location: 6335 Portal Way, Ferndale, WA  98248
  • Type of campground: Private (Holiday Trails RV Resorts)
  • Cost: $28.57/ night (monthly rate)
  • Additional fees: electricity usage, $0.10 / KWH
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT average
  • Website:
  • Pros: Resort amenities, low price, huge/private site
  • Cons: none

Full Review

This was our first month-long stay since starting our fulltime adventure, and we picked a great spot! This RV resort is located in the center of Northwest Washington sights, making a perfect home base for exploration.

We lucked into an extra-large, gravel, pull through site. The campground recently converted a back section row  to “big rig” sites, by ripping out half the sites, combining every two sites into extra-wide sites, and carpeting them with firmly packed gravel. We had no problem pulling our big bus into the wide site from the narrow one lane road. The sites are separated by tall cedar hedges, making them unusually private. Our full hook ups worked flawlessly (water/sewer/50 amp electric) and the site included a picnic table and fire ring.

The amenities are many:  two restroom/bathhouse buildings (code access), two coin laundry facilities, a heated swimming pool, playground, sports field, dog park, library, store, and club house. There’s no cable TV, but our satellite TV worked fine. We pulled in a few stations over the air, mostly Canadian. It was interesting to get their news perspective! AT&T coverage was average, good enough for what we needed for both voice and internet. Campground wifi is available, but only near the office.

The price can’t be beat:  $800 for a 28 day (month) stay, plus electric billed at $0.10 / KWH for usage over 250 KWH. That’s the cheapest stay we’ve had in many months, for a super nice location. We did have to fill out a bunch of paperwork upon arrival since we were technically a long-term tenant (last addresses, employment history, references??) which seemed overkill for a site we had pre-paid! It should be noted that we were required to pre-pay the entire month up front to guarantee our high-season spot.

The Cedars is within day trip distance of many cool places:  Vancouver BC, Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Mount Baker (whose snow-capped peak is clearly visible from the campground!). Ferndale has a grocery store and basic shops, but the nearby larger town of Bellingham (15 minutes away) has a mall, Wal-Mart, Lowes, and other conveniences.

I really enjoyed our stay here. It’s a family campground, especially busy on the summer weekends. I liked seeing weekend tent campers and children playing and riding their bikes. A family of bunnies frequently showed themselves in the early morning, hopping around and grass-grazing.  It felt like living in a neighborhood, not a manicured retirement village. One note: the showers near the pool area are showing their age, so I preferred using the newer facility at the north end of the park. But that’s just a nit to pick, otherwise it was fantastic.

Bottom Line: Awesome site and resort for a bargain price. Would stay again!

Lazy Days of Summer

So, we’re here in Ferndale Washington for a month. I’ve already posted about some fantastic day trips to Vancouver, Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park and out on a boat for whale watching. Jeff did an overnight trip to Whistler for two days of mountain biking.  But that leaves a lot of days left to explore the surrounding area at a leisurely pace.

047Northwest Washington state (north of Seattle) is small town rural America, for the most part. But small towns have nice features and events to explore – such as the Raspberry Festival in Lyndon, WA. We wandered over there on a Saturday afternoon to discover a fantastic car show with over 200 shiny vintage automobiles and trucks on view. The entire city center was blocked off, primarily to host their annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament for grade school through adult. The young ones were most entertaining. We indulged in vanilla ice cream topped with a giant scoop of fresh raspberries ($2!) and free chocolate milk samples. We also picked up a bag of fresh kettle corn which was almost as good as the kettle corn we bought at the Las Cruces farmer’s market. Almost. Small towns are great!

The nearby town of Bellingham has all of the amenities you want – a real shopping mall, a Lowes, and movie theaters. We saw “Ant Man and the Wasp” and caught up on some shopping. We did “spa day” at the local Casino Spa, enjoying massages and their complimentary wet area which included a pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room. Bellingham also has really a few nice bike trails, one of which goes along the waterfront and connects several city parks. It’s not as extensive as Vancouver’s network, but it makes for a nice morning ride. Some of the parks are very pretty, with hiking trails as well as biking trails.

IMG_4487Bellingham also is home to the Upfront Theater, an Improvisational school and theater founded and owned by Bellingham resident Ryan Stiles. You may recognize the name if you are a fan of the TV show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” He is often out of town working, but just happened to be participating on the night we took in one of their shows. I haven’t laughed so hard since I can’t remember — hilarious fun!

And the rest of the time? Grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and other chores. Visiting local vendors to sample and stock up on local smoked salmon, cheeses and wines. Jeff mountain bikes a couple of days a week. I do some paying work and write blog posts. Direct TV gave us two free months of Showtime, so we are recording movies and binge-watching shows we’ve missed. We’re re-learning how to play cribbage – properly, this time. Reading. Knitting. Relaxing around a campfire.

It’s nice to have some down time.