Volunteering at D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery

Really? We don’t fish … we don’t cook or even eat ENOUGH fish (according to the health experts) and we don’t really have any desire to handle fish or even SMELL fish! Why on earth would we consider working at a fish hatchery as one of our Workamping / Volunteering gigs?

Our good friends Phil and Cheryl volunteered here in 2016 and other good friends Matt and Sherry volunteered here in 2018 and they ALL highly recommended that we get on the list to volunteer here. Matt and Sherry were coming back again this year (’19) and so we submitted our application and resume’ back in August of 2018 and were accepted as volunteers.

D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives is not your normal production fish hatchery. There are 90 national U.S. Fish & Wildlife fish hatcheries throughout the nation along with many other state-managed hatcheries that are still in full-time operation.

This hatchery was an active production facility from it’s completion of construction in 1899 until 1983. At that time it was closed as a major production facility and turned into the national hatchery education site and archives.

Volunteering here has given both Kathy and I a new appreciation for serving as “tour guides” doing interpretive work. We were both a little nervous about this new role in our lives as volunteers. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that most of our volunteer experiences have been working in private or public RV parks or campgrounds as hosts, cleaning crew, or office duties. Although all of these positions have involved working with the public and have given us the opportunity to meet and talk with a lot of new people, we’ve not been put in the position of “tour guide” doing interpretive work.

Would we be able to learn the script? Would we be able to smile all day? Would we be able to be on our feet for four and a half hours at a time? We were not concerned about the camp site, the area, or the management. We were confident that would all be great … thanks to our friends who’d worked here before.

We have to say that as of this writing … we’ve only been here about 3 weeks now … it’s been a wonderful experience and we’re quite comfortable with doing the interpretive work (tour guides) and we’re really enjoying our interactions with the other volunteers and being able to see the many sights that the Black Hills of South Dakota have to offer.

There are basically four different venues here where the volunteers are scheduled to work. Our venue assignments are rotated each shift. Spouses work the same shifts. We work 3 half-days on duty, then 3 full days off duty.

We might work in; the Museum, the Fish Car, the Booth House, or the Gift Shop.

The original hatchery building, constructed in 1899

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

Fish Car #3 and the Ice House

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

The Booth House – where hatchery Superintendents and their families lived

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

The “Pond Shop” gift shop overlooking pond #1
Inside the gift shop we sell hatchery merchandise and LOTS of fish food!
The “Pond Gift Shop” and restrooms with Pond #1 at the left

There are 10 RV sites in “Volunteer Village” which is a separate area of the beautiful Spearfish City Campground that is dedicated to use by volunteers at D.C. Booth Hatchery. We are supplied the Full Hookup site, 45 channel cable, free wi-fi and a community fire pit area where we often gather each night for a campfire with smores and stories. Sometimes we have pot luck meals there too!

Our sites back up to Spearfish Creek and a walking trail
Boys having fun floating down Spearfish Creek right behind our rigs

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

Another special perk of this position is that the volunteers all get a “VIP” card to carry in their wallet. This card is issued by the Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association and it entitles us to free admission to about 40 area attractions and discounts in area gift shops and restaurants.

The idea is that as tour guides at D.C. Booth we have the opportunity to meet and interact with hundreds of visitors daily and we should take the opportunity to talk with them about other attractions in the area. We’re kind of a “mini marketing” team for other things to see and do nearby.

This is the list of all the attractions free to tourism VIP’s

Some of these benefits are valued at just a few dollars while others are over $100 per ticket. It’s a great idea to promote the are wonderful benefit for us too!

While we are here at Spearfish (through Sept 2019) I’ll be writing other short blog posts about our excursion trips that we take using the VIP cards so you can get a better feel for a lot of what there is to offer here in the beautiful Black Hills!

If you think you might be interested in volunteering at D.C. Booth Historic Fish Hatchery and Archives, visit their web site at https://dcboothfishhatchery.org/volunteer-programs/

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog, you can easily do so by scrolling up to the top of any page and entering your email address in the block on the right side.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel (herbnkathyrv) on You Tube.

If you’re curious (at any time) to know where we are at that moment then click the button at the top right of this page labeled “See Where We Are Now“.

We’d love to hear from you. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you can send us a note. Again, thanks for riding along. ’til next time – safe travels.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Just A Sleepy Little Town

After our three days and nights at the Sweetwater Events Center (fair grounds @ Rock Springs Wyoming) we made our way further east on I-80 and then up U.S. 287 through Muddy Gap and around Casper, then up I-25 to Powder River Campgrounds at Kaycee, Wyoming.

Honestly, the only reason we went to Kaycee was because the camping was cheap, it would be a full hook-up site, and they had a laundry. We are members of Passport America and the PA web site showed Kaycee as the closest member park and as a result we are able to stay for $20/night which is 1/2 the normal non-member rate of $40 nightly.

There was one other camper there, but we never saw any occupants

We were cheerily welcomed by the on-site park manager Deneene and she welcomed us to the area, gave us a full hook-up pull-through site and proceeded to tell us a little about the town and especially the Bronc Riding School that would be happening the next two days across the street at the local fair grounds.

Turns out that Kaycee is famous for producing professional rodeo stars – over a dozen have come from this sleepy little town to go on to earn their living as professional national rodeo stars.

Here’s an excerpt from a local paper explaining the phenomenon;

The following is an excerpt from PATRICK SCHMIEDT Star-Tribune staff writer Jul 13, 2006

Blend a supportive community, a heavy dose of history and a simple case of boredom, and it shouldn’t have been too surprising to see five Kaycee competitors in Wednesday’s performance at the Central Wyoming Rodeo.

The small town of about 250 people an hour north of Casper has produced more successful cowboys than most towns 100 times its size. But none of the five competitors in Wednesday’s performance has completely figured out why.

Morgan Forbes, a 23-year-old saddle bronc rider looking for a return trip to the National Finals Rodeo, attributes the success of Kaycee cowboys, in part, to boredom.

“There’s not much else to do out in Kaycee,” he said.

As for Jeremy Ivie, who, at 29, moved to Kaycee five years ago from Duchesne, Utah, it’s all the “old guys” in town who help foster rodeo success. After all, the names of rodeo families in and around the town are familiar in rodeo circles: Forbes. Graves. LeDoux. Sandvick. Scolari. Shepperson. Orchard. Jarrard. Latham.

Dusty Orchard, a 25-year-old bull rider, said the town is a “coffee shop,” where the residents applaud when a hometown cowboy does well and offer a twinkle-eyed razzing when there is more disappointment than success.

Or, as Orchard suggested, it may be because Kaycee doesn’t have a football team to rally behind. Instead, the community rallies around rodeo.

Actually, it’s a combination of those ingredients that blend the perfect atmosphere for the sport, an atmosphere that has helped to produce about a dozen competitors – around five percent of the town’s residents – solid enough to maintain current careers on the professional rodeo circuit.

“If you want to rodeo, it’s the greatest place in the world to grow up,” said saddle bronc rider Sandy Forbes, Morgan’s older brother. ” … It’s just what we do.”

“If you’re wanting to be somewhere that supports rodeo, that’s the town,” she said.

We decided to stay another night and that afternoon after the Bronc School an Airstream trailer pulled in next to us and we met Angie and Bunny who were traveling to Yellowstone (to work) from Indiana. We enjoyed a nice chicken dinner with them that night at a local restaurant.

It was a real treat for these two city-slickers lemme tell ‘ya. We got to see a “stampede” of a hundred horses go by us on the bridge that we could’ve reached out and touched. Add to that watching these young kids get bucked off the broncs as their seniors trained them to ride ’em.

Check out the video below for the full story.

Thanks for riding along. We appreciate that you stop to take the time to read and come along with us on our adventure. Please leave a comment or two down the page in the comments section – What do you think of these kids being bucked off the horse?

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Camping at School

We’ve really enjoyed using our Boondockers Welcome membership to stay in new and unique places and meet all kinds of interesting folks.

This week, on our way from Arizona to Montana where we will be camp hosting for a couple months at an Army Corp of Engineer campground, we utilized our “BW” membership to once again camp in a driveway of “Friends We Haven’t Met Yet”.

This time was a little different than all the others we’ve stayed at. This time we stayed in a schoolyard!

The old Millard LDS Academy (1910-1923)

Our host was Kevin Caldwell. Kevin and his wife have owned the school property for 8 years now and have been continually restoring it in hopes of one day opening it as a Bed & Breakfast / Event Center and meeting place for the benefit of the community.

The school was completed in 1910 and was originally used as the Millard Latter Day Saints Academy until 1923 when it then became the Hinkley (Utah) High School until 1953.

Over the years the school has been purchased and sold several times and various business ventures have come and gone. In the mid-1970s the Hinckley Elementary School made use of the academy building. It even served as a disco around 1978. The disco, called The Total Eclipse, operated for only about 18 months. In the 1980s, a swimming pool and water slide were built and soon closed again.

Kevin and his wife (whom we didn’t have the opportunity to meet – she was out of town working) along with his teenage children and occasional local labor have done a TON (or five) of work including; removing all the old wood shake roof and installing all new plywood sheeting, felt paper and shingles, stripping all the interior walls of plaster and lathe and building out the inside of the exterior walls with 2X6 studs so that they can be packed with insulation, and installing, taping, and mudding all new drywall.

But before the new drywall could be installed first they gutted all the old “knob & tube” electrical wiring and rewired the entire building to present code, installed all new plumbing throughout including all fresh and waste water lines, installed new gas lines to supply the (3) new gas forced air furnaces (with 4 more to come), and installed extensive solar panels on the gymnasium building adjacent to the main school building.

During the first five years of the project Kevin and his family lived in their Montana 5th Wheel trailer on the property. They were able to move in to the building 3 years ago.

Both Kevin and his wife have full time jobs and they still have 4 children at home to raise and nurture. Part of that nurturing is teaching them a good solid work ethic and helping on the schoolhouse gives them plenty of opportunity to help out, learn new skills, and learn to appreciate their personal accomplishments.

The gymnasium (at this point) only hosts the solar system. Work on the rest of the building will only commence once the main schoolhouse is completed

It was a real treat having the opportunity to meet Kevin and part of their family and see all the work they’re doing to restore this grand old property.

We want to thank them for hosting us and giving us a tour of their project and we wish them all the luck in the future as their dream comes to fruition.

Our rig parked next to the gymnasium. Kell and Karen also pulled in this afternoon and have their rig parked right behind us.

Thanks for riding along with us. If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to our blog by entering your email address in the block on the right above – that way you’ll be sent an email each time we publish a new post.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Great Time at Escapade ’19

As members of the Escapees RV Club, Kathy and I attended our 2nd “Escapade” this past week. The first one we attended was in Essex Junction (Burlington area), Vermont back in summer of 2016. This year’s Escapade was in Tucson at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

Aerial View of The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds

The annual Escapade is held in different locations around the country. 2018 was in Sedalia, Missouri while next year’s event will be held in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Holding the rally in different locations allows club members in different areas of the country to attend without having to travel extreme distances.

The rally is an opportunity to; renew friendships with other travelers you haven’t seen in a long while, enjoy some great regional food, attend as many as 10 or 15 informational seminars scheduled over a 4 day period, visit the Marketplace where vendors of RV equipment and supplies display and sell their products, take a tour of nearly 100 new and used RV’s on the lot, and attendees can even volunteer as shuttle cart drivers, hospitality hosts, parking attendants, morning coffee crew members, and lots of other opportunities.

Here are some pictures of various parts of the event. We took over the Pima County Fairgrounds with 830 recreational vehicles (RV’s) and just about 2500 attendees.

As usual, if you click on any of the individual pictures below, it will open into a larger image so you can see more detail.

Here’s a couple videos of the evening entertainment. This evening’s video features “The American Rogues” (Sorry the audio is not nearly as impressive as it was at the live presentation). You could feel the drums beating and the rafters shaking.

The American Rogues

Here’s a video of the “Redhead Express” – and 5 of these 6 band members are siblings!

The Redhead Express

Thanks for coming along. We are blessed to be able to live the full-time RV lifestyle and we hope you enjoy riding along with us on our adventures.

So long for now!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Where We’re Heading To Next

It’s March 18, 2019 and we are currently parked at the Pima County (Tucson, AZ) Fairgrounds with about 2000 other Escapee RV Club members enjoying the annual Escapade national gathering.

One of the evening entertainment sessions at 59th Escapade – Tucson, AZ

Since we “hit the road” and started our full-time RV lifestyle in late 2016, we had been Workamping our way around the country. We work at campgrounds or RV parks offering about 15-20 hours per week in exchange for rent-free living at the park and it typically includes all our utilities, cable TV, wifi, laundry and sometimes discounts at the park store or nearby attractions.

But being members of the Escapees RV Club, we were able to take advantage of getting on a “Wait List” for any of their parks. We put our names on the Wait List for the parks in; Wauchula FL, Hondo TX, Casa Grande AZ, Benson AZ, and Pahrump NV. We figured whichever park had our name at the top of the list first (waiting lists are often many years long), that’s the park we’d call “home” for the winter.

In addition to having a place to winter regularly, the “home base” would provide us a place to go at very little additional cost (only electric and propane) to be should we need a lengthy stay for say, recovery from a medical procedure – planned or otherwise.

As it turned out, we rose to the top of the list at Rover’s Roost in late 2017, accepted the lifetime lease agreement, continued our Workamping commitments for spring, summer, and fall of 2018, and then arrived here November 1st to be “on vacation” for the winter months.

We’ve spent a very relaxing and enjoyable winter at our leased lot at the Escapees Rover’s Roost RV Park in Casa Grande, AZ. I’ll share more with you in later posts about our time here at “The Roost” both having fun with our new friends along with some of the projects we’ve completed to our “home on the road”.

Our winter home at Rover’s Roost RV Park at Casa Grande, AZ

But now it’s early spring and it’s time to leave “The Roost” for the summer season (it gets WAY too hot here) and head north to cooler climates.

This year, we are heading to Montana to work at an Army Corp of Engineers campground as Park Hosts. We’ll be at Ft. Peck Dam Downstream Campground for 3 months (April, May, and June) and then we will move a little east to our next Workamping commitment at DC Booth Historic Fish Hatchery in Spearfish South Dakota working as visitor center and museum employees. We’ll be there July, August, and September.

Here’s a map of our trip north next month. This is subject to change as we have over 120 places on our Bucket List and we’ll try to hit many of them along the way, even if it takes us off track a hundred miles or so. We’re not in any big hurry to get north, we’ll hopefully just follow the spring thaw!

If you’d like to check up on us as we travel and see where we are at any given moment in time, you can just go to www.aprs.fi and type my ham radio license number WB8BHK-9 into the Search box and it’ll return a Google map with our exact location at that moment. We’d love for you to follow along!

I admit I’ve been a bit lax the last few months and haven’t posted blog entries as often as I would have liked to. I’ll work to improve my postings as we travel north and we appreciate you following along.

Oh, by the way …. we’ve designed a new logo to market our brand. Whatta ‘ya think?

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

How Do They Make Those?

Once or twice each month we (folks here at Rover’s Roost RV Park) have what we call a “Tag Along”. We just hop in our car (or someone else’s) and head out on a road trip.

This month about 10 or 12 of us went up to the Dwarf Car Museum just southwest of Maricopa, about 30 minutes west of our park.

Quick trip out I-8 to the museum

A lot of us really didn’t know what to expect .. and boy were we impressed!

Ernie and his helpers have, over the years built from scratch little 5/8 scale automobiles. These are real beauties as the pictures below illustrate. But what is really fascinating is that they are all made from flat sheet stock! They make their own roofs, fenders, door panels along with all the stainless (looks like chrome) grills, trim, headlight rings, window frames …. and more.

They will take a stock steering wheel from a junkyard and cut it down (taking sections of the diameter out) so that it becomes a smaller version of itself. On the dashboard, even though the actual dash is scratch made from sheet steel and stainless … what about the gauges? They use stock gauges but cut out part of the dial (or scale) to make it smaller and then hand paint the markings back on the face plate before cutting down the glass and reinstalling. Painstaking work.

The museum is really more of a shop – Out in the middle of nowhere
How it came to be …

Click on any of the images below to see a larger view

Ernie and his buddies were there the day we visited – there were probably about 35 or 40 of us altogether. I asked one of them what their day is like. He said “we start work at the shop about 7am but then slow down (or quit altogether) when the visitors start to come in.” “Then we start up again late afternoon and work until 8 or 9 at night.” When asked how many hours it takes to make one of these beauties he answered “about 3000” or so.

I commented on how dedicated they are to spend those kinds of hours each day toward achieving the finished product. One of them piped up and said “but only for 6 months – then I go home to Minnesota”. My reaction was one of relief and I commented “that’s good that you get a vacation from this” and he replied “yeah, I go back home to my shop in Minnesota and work on my projects there.”

There is no fee to visit the “museum” but they do accept donations. There is an endless loop video playing in a little theater that shows how these cars are made from the ground up. Seeing this video really gave me an appreciation for all the talent, imagination, and effort that goes into producing these masterpieces. These guys are truly artisans.

If you find yourself in the Phoenix or Tucson take a drive to the Dwarf Car Museum at Maricopa. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see and even more so when you talk with the fellas that make these little wonders.

To see all the pix from our time there, you can follow this Google Photo Album link

Ernie’s Video
We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Road Trip Over Parker Dam

During one of our days off duty at The Big Tent RV Show, we took a road trip up to (and across) Parker Dam, Lake Havasu, and Bullhead City.

We started the trip taking State Route 95 straight north out of Quartzsite and crossing the state line at the town of Parker. On up 95 a few miles we crossed the Parker Dam back into Arizona. Thank goodness as gasoline in California is about $2 per gallon higher than in Arizona!

Our friends and co-workers Paul & Chris went with us and we enjoyed the day together. Driving as far as we did gave us a lot of time to talk and catch up on each others travels.

Paul & Chris (from Iowa)

Parker Dam crosses the Colorado River and was built in 1942. You can see some of the Art Deco architecture in the design of the dam.

(taken from Nat Park Service web site)
What you see is not what you get at Parker Dam, known as “the deepest dam in the world.” Engineers, digging for bedrock on which to build, had to excavate so far beneath the bed of the Colorado River that 73 percent of Parker Dam’s 320-foot structural height is not visible. Its reservoir, Lake Havasu, is a different matter. Its deep blue water stretches for 45 miles behind the dam, creating an oasis in the Arizona desert. Gracing the shore at Lake Havasu City is the historic London Bridge, reconstructed brick by brick in 1971 and adding to the city’s claim as “Arizona’s playground.”


Click on any of the images below to open a larger view

We continued on up (the Arizona side) State Route 95 and made a quick stop at the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. Kathy and I had stopped here a couple years ago and wanted to give Paul & Chris a chance to see it as well. The Refuge is huge, but the part that’s easiest to see is a small peninsula into the river. The peninsula has shade shelters with benches so you can use your binoculars to see all the water fowl that lives in the habitat. The nightfall pictures below are from our stop on the way back home from Lake Havasu and Bullhead City.

Click on any of the images below to open a larger view.

Our next stop was Lake Havasu City. We kept this portion of the trip short, we just visited the London Bridge, grabbed a bite to eat at a local cafe and then back on the road. (Thanks Paul & Chris for buying our lunch!)

This is THE original London Bridge, moved to Lake Havasu City from London back in 1968 by Robert McCulloch. Find out all the details of the moving of the bridge at this link. It doesn’t cost anything to park in the lot and walk along the water’s edge. It must cost the store operators an arm and a leg in rent to have a storefront at the foot of the bridge. There is a small island on the far side of the bridge where there are residential units, restaurants, and more shopping.

Next stop on the trip … Bullhead City. We purposely made the drive on up the road to Bullhead City to have a brief visit with Rob & Michelle. Kathy and I met Rob & Michelle when we were workamping at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park in Michigan in summer of ’18. We spent the day with them in the Tucson area a month or so ago and wanted to stop in and say “Hi” and introduced them to Paul & Chris — you never know when they might have the opportunity to cross paths again.

Unfortunately, I FORGOT to get ANY pictures of Rob & Michelle or their beautiful RV site looking toward Spirit Mountain on this trip! So here’s one I stole off Michelle’s Facebook page..

Rob & Michelle … fellow full-time RV’ers we met in Michigan summer of ’18

Thanks for riding along … we look forward to spending time with you again soon!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

A Great Time in Quartzsite (Mostly)

We just returned to our winter home at Rover’s Roost SKP RV Park in Casa Grande, AZ after spending a “mostly” wonderful 10 days or so at Quartzsite.

What’s Quartzsite you ask? Quartzsite is a small town in the western Arizona desert, only about 15 miles or so from Blythe, California. Quartzsite (during the summer) is a sleepy little town of about 3000 people. But WATCH OUT! Because when winter arrives, the town and surrounding desert lands explode with RV’ers and Van Campers and all sorts of folks from all over the country.

The red balloon is Quartzsite. The blue balloons are places on our bucket list

The population in the winter goes from about 3000 up to 300,000 or more as folks show up to attend one or more of the many shows that take place. You have the Big Tent RV Show, Gem show, Rock Show, Jewelry Show, and on-going Flea Market(s) over the winter months.

It’s a boom town in the winter

We went to attend the big RV, Sports, and Vacation Show and we worked at the Escapees RV Club booth selling club memberships to show attendees.

The show officially started on Saturday January 19th although we arrived early on Tuesday the 15th to an area in the desert about 6 miles north of Quartzsite known as “Boomerville”. Boomerville is an unofficial area off the north side of Plamosa Road where about 500-600 Escapee (baby boomers) meet each year at Q to renew old friendships.

It was a crappy cold and rainy day and our good friends Paul and Chris arrived from Yuma with a flat tire on their motorhome.

Replacing the tire in the rain and mud of the desert

Thankfully, Paul & Chris had subscribed to the Escapee Roadside Assistance program and the repairman (with a trailer full of tools) was out to the site within about an hour or so.

While the repairmen were working on replacing the tire, the rest of us gathered in Walter & Rebecca’s rig. We had all met for the first time in Livingston, TX back in December of 2017 and it was great to spend time together again.

Waiting for the tire repair in the warm comfort of Walter & Rebecca’s rig

The following morning we (the 5 couples working together in the club booth) moved on down the road to the site of the “Big Tent” where we would be working over the next 10 days or so.

In line waiting to get escorted to our parking spot at the Big Tent
We got a prime spot right in front of the Big Tent (that’s our green rig in the middle)

The parking area filled up quickly with vendor’s rigs. There were nearly 500 vendor booths inside the tent along with dozens more outside selling everything from new and used RV’s to generators, cell phones, satellite TV systems, RV park spaces, accessories, personal health and beauty aids, leather goods, jewelry, and TONS more.

Here’s a shot of one of the 3 rows inside the tent before most of the vendors arrived
A shot of one of the vendor rows outside the tent during a weekday, the weekends were busier
(L to R) Lisa, Rob, Jim, and Dennis setting up the booth ready for the crowds
Jim and Chris (background) talking with a prospective member along with Paul and Lisa (foreground) signing up a couple of new members
Here’s a quick look video inside the Big Tent

We were fortunate to have 5 couples working the booth and we all had a great time getting to know one another. We had at least 3 pot luck dinners.

Robyn and Larry live in New Mexico and will be retiring and transitioning to full time RV life in May while Dennis and Connie from the Cincinnati area along with Rob and Laura from Indianapolis and Kathy and me (from Ohio) are full timers. Paul and Chris still live on the family farm in Iowa during the summers and travel extensively during the winters. Our fearless leaders Jim and Lisa are both retired but working again for the club as leaders of the RV Show Teams and of the club Head Out Programs (Caravans/Cruises/Bus Tours). Believe me, with their hectic schedule, they are FAR from being retired!

Our crew at the booth near the end of the show. Unfortunately, Lisa didn’t make it into the picture this day

Click on any of the images in the gallery below to see a larger view

As we’ve said before … traveling the country and seeing all the beautiful landscape is rewarding enough, but the big reward is meeting all the new folks and developing such great new friendships. We so look forward to our next opportunity to meet up on down the road.

We worked the booth selling new memberships, we walked the tent looking at all the many vendors had to offer, we spent too much money buying “stuff” (which we can talk about later), and we had a great time over numerous dinners laughing and sharing stories.

All in all, it was a GREAT trip and a wonderful experience. Only the first day was a bummer due to the bad weather and Paul & Chris’ flat tire.

If you’re an Escapee RV Club member and you’d like to work one of the RV shows across the country, reach out to Lisa (you know who she is). If you’re an RV’er and you’re NOT an Escapee … come on along and join us! Here’s the link – it’s a great RV club … and so much more. It’ll be the best $39.95 you’ve spent in a LONG time! (psss – tell ’em Herb n Kathy sent you)

Thanks for following along on the ride .. more to come about our other adventures later and we look forward to meeting up with you somewhere along the way!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Another Great Climb .. er, Drive up the Mountain

We met Rob & Michelle when we were working up in Michigan last summer at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park. They were pretty new to the full-time RV lifestyle themselves having retired from work, selling their home and buying the truck and the 5th wheel to live in as they traveled the country.

We were glad to find that Rob & Michelle had made their way from Michigan to Arizona and were staying at an RV park near Tucson for the month of December.

We reached out to them through Facebook and then spent the day together driving up to Mt. Lemmon (about 9000′). It was a beautiful day with temps down in Tucson at about 70+ degrees and the sun was shining brightly. We knew the temperature up on the mountain would be 20-30 degrees cooler.

Mt. Lemmon has a summit at 9159′ and is located in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range of the Coronado National Forest. The Catalina Highway is a two lane paved road that heads north from Tucson and winds it’s way on up to Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley and the little town of Summerhaven that sports a couple restaurants, a general store, and a few other small businesses.

The white squiggly line you see going up from Tanque Verde is the Catalina Highway that takes you to the summit

Summerhaven, although home to a few full-time residents, is mostly inhabited by folks who come up from the hot desert climate to escape from the heat of the summers.

One of the restaurants in Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon

We stopped at most every wide spot in the road to be able to get out and marvel at the sites as we looked at the oddly shaped rock formations and the view of the expanse of Tucson down below.

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged view and then you can scroll right or left to see the next picture.

One of the really cool things we found before heading out on our trip was an app called “Mt. Lemon Science Tour“. This app can be downloaded from your device app store (free) and it is an approximately 1 hour narrated tour of the ride to the top. It tells you when to pull over, pause the app and goes on to explain what you’re looking at! It’s a really great idea … but we ended up having too much fun talking about what we’ve all been up to since the last time we were together. Kathy and I decided we’ll go back up sometime and use the app to learn more about what we’re seeing.

As we pulled over at one of the larger roadside parking areas we noticed about a half dozen U.S. Border Patrol vehicles. It seemed odd that they would be chasing after some bad guys all the way up here.

The parking area with Border Patrol vehicles

But as we moved closer to the overlook at the wall we could then see what all the activity was about. They were practicing their rescue techniques having installed hardware to perform a repelling operation. They actually had one of their members in a basket and were preparing to lower him over the edge into about a 100 foot drop to safety. We stayed and watched a while before we moved on.

This first video shows them getting ready to drop him over the edge – head first!
Part 2 video of the repelling operation – he’s about halfway down the cliff

All in all, it was another beautiful day in paradise and it was especially great that we were able to share it with two of our full-time RV buddies Rob and Michelle.

We look forward to maybe hooking up with Rob & Michelle (and many others) when we’re at the Big Tent RV Show in Quartzite the last week of January.

Thanks for coming along and be sure to sign up to get our future blog posts automatically by entering your email address in the little box on the left side where it says “Sign Up To Follow Our Blog”.

You can check out all our RV full-time travel videos at herbnkathyrv on You Tube and click SUBSCRIBE down in the lower right corner of any of our videos.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Arizona Cotton Farm Tour

One of the great advantages of being in one place for a bit of time (in this case the winter season) is that you get to know the other folks in the park and they quickly become your friends, or in many cases .. your family.

Last week a lot of “the family” took a tour of one of the many local cotton farms – The Caywood Family Farm  just east of Casa Grande.

Being that we lived in central Ohio for 30+ years, we were somewhat familiar (but not well versed) in the farming of wheat, soybeans, and corn. This tour provided us with TONS of information about the cotton business. We’ve seen the cotton bales and modules in fields along the road and we’ve become well aware of the cotton transport trucks, but this tour really opened our eyes to the entire process.

Some of the pictures in this post were taken while on the tour, others were taken at fields or at nearby gin, and then a few were pulled off the internet to round out the post.

Nancy Caywood was our tour guide and shared with us that she is the third generation of the Caywood family to farm that property. 

Nancy Caywood

Her son Travis is now actually running the farm and Nancy and her helper Al handle the tour operation.

You can learn more about Nancy and the rest of the crew by following this link.

We learned a lot during the 3 hour tour about the cotton farming business and how hard it is to “make it” given the dire water situation here in central Arizona along with all the government regulations on when they can plant, when (and if) they can have water, how they are required to control dust, when they must have the crop out of the ground and so many more “must” and “must not” regulations.

Here are some of the interesting facts we learned;

  • Water rights are first given to the;
    • Native Americans then;
    • City and County Governments then;
    • Industry then;
    • lastly to the farmers (if there’s any left)
  • A typical round “module” of harvested cotton weighs about 5000 pounds
  • The rectangular modules weigh about 15,000 pounds
  • The harvest weight will be about 2/3 seed and 1/3 cotton lint
  • Crops can be planted as early as late March (weather dependent)
  • Crops MUST be off the field by mid-February (regulation)
  • Crops generally get picked twice each season before the plant is cut and turned under
  • Between field preparation, planting, fertilizing, picking, 2nd picking, cutting, tilling, leveling, and other necessary operations the field is crossed by tractor 15 times or more during a typical season
  • A typical John Deere 4 row picker costs about $650,000 (new)
  • Central Arizona farmers typically grow either Pima (Egyptian) Cotton or Upland Cotton
  • The cotton “modules” are trucked to the local cotton gin for cleaning and separating the seed from the cotton lint and packaging to be transported to storage and ultimate sale to textile mills
  • Cotton or cotton seed is used in; clothing, animal feed, pharmaceutics, explosives, adhesives, oil, toothpaste, currency and hundreds of other applications
  • 95% of the cotton grown in the U.S. is exported to the Pacific Rim (China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and others)
Al and Nancy started off the tour with a little homespun music (play the video)
We loaded up on two wagons for the farm tour

The cotton seed is planted in the spring after the final frost. The seeds begin to germinate and pop their heads out of the ground about a week later. Cultivating is done to minimize weed and grass growth that would otherwise choke out the cotton plant.

The crops are watered by flood irrigation.  The ditches are filled with water from either; on site wells or from canals coming to the area from the Central Arizona Project. The CAP gets it’s water from Lake Mead.  Yes, that’s right … central Arizona gets it’s water from Lake Mead (nearly 300 miles north of Phoenix).  The opening and closing of the irrigation gates to the fields are controlled by government agencies with hefty fines to the farmers should they be caught abusing their privileges.

Typical Irrigation Ditch (gates controlled by government agencies)
The flower has fallen and the unopened boll is exposed

About 2 months after planting, buds begin to form on the plant & in another 3 weeks or so the blossoms open with pale yellow flowers.

In a few days the petals change color to dark purple. A few days more and the flower withers and falls leaving the BOLL that contains the seeds and moist fibers. Eventually, as the seed matures the BOLL bursts open exposing the fluffy bounty. The cotton now is ready to harvest right after it is sprayed with a defoliant. This allows the leaves to fall thereby producing a cleaner cotton harvest.

Now the boll is open and ready for the picker

Here’s a typical hopper style picker.  This two-row picker collects the cotton in the large hopper in the back.  When it’s full, the picker then dumps the hopper into a large rectangular Module Builder

This picker holds loose cotton

Here’s Nancy showing us the head of their two-row picker.  This picker pulls the cotton out of the plant boll and places it up into a hopper in the back.  The loose cotton is then “dumped” out of the picker into a large rectangular cotton module builder that can then be transported to the gin for processing.

Nancy and the Picker Head

Here’s one of the picker heads showing the tall row of spindles (silver horizontal spikes). The spindles are about the size of your baby finger and rotate (very fast) and have little teeth on them that catch and pull the cotton off the plant.  At the same time, the vertical shaft that the spindles are attached to is also turning and moving the spindles under a brush to remove the cotton so it can be blown up into the hopper at the rear of the picker

Inside the picker head showing the spindles and brushes. 
This shows the doffers that pull the cotton off the spindles so it can be blown up into the hopper

Once the cotton is picked it needs to get to the gin for processing .. right?  So the farmer dumps the cotton from the picker into what is called a Module Builder.

The wheels on the Module Builder are mounted on hydraulic rams so that the “box” can be lifted off the ground so it can be towed by the tractor

The module builder is basically a large metal box that is open on the top and bottom, one solid end and a gate on the other end.  It is usually hooked to a tractor to not only move it around the field, but also to supply the hydraulic power for the ram to pack the cotton tightly

The inside of the large module builder.  Note the large white arm that holds the ram to pack the cotton tightly.  The ram is remotely controlled to move from end to end

The walls of the module builder are sloped being wider at the bottom than the top so that the builder can be pulled off the module easily

Here’s a You Tube video I found online that shows how the Module Builder works

After the module is packed, it’s time to pull the builder away and then the transport truck comes to pick up the module and take it to the gin for processing

The wheel hydraulic rams lift the builder, the tractor pulls the builder forward, and the cotton module is left on the ground awaiting transport to the gin

This cotton transport truck drives onto the cotton field, backs up to the end of the packed cotton module, turns on the chain drive track in the floor of the trailer, and backs up …. at the same speed that the chain drive runs.  This picks up the module .. one foot at a time .. and neatly deposits it into the truck trailer where it’s then taken to the cotton gin for processing.

One of the large 15,000 lb modules on the feed conveyor into the gin
Close-up of the conveyor system feeding the gin. The blue bin in the front holds the yellow (round) module wrappers to be compacted and sent to plastic recycling
Just some of the modules sitting in the gin lot waiting to be processed.

The newer and larger cotton pickers can produce their own round modules

A newer 6 head cotton picker that makes it’s own round modules
This picker rolls the cotton into round 5000# modules.  These larger pickers eliminate the need for a separate (rectangular) module builder

The round modules are dropped in the field by the picker and then a very large fork-lift type of truck goes out and picks them up and sets them onto the flat bed trailer for delivery to the gin.

This picture below shows round modules arriving at the gin and being weighed

Round modules coming from the farm and being weighed at the gin (40,000# est)

Look closely below (right side of picture) and you’ll see the tractor placing the round modules onto the conveyor to head into the gin for processing

Modules being loaded onto a conveyor belt that feeds them into the gin
Trucks loaded with the ginned 500# cotton bales to head to storage (for ultimate sale)

Unfortunately, we can’t go into the gin to see the operation first hand (safety issues), but I found this YouTube video online that explains the process very well.  Although this video was done in Australia, the process is very similar if not identical to how it’s done here in Arizona.

An Australian video of the cotton ginning process

The picture below shows the large piles of cotton seed that will be processed further for things like; cottonseed oil, fertilizer, animal feed, soap, glycerin, cosmetics, rubber, and a lot more that we use every day.

Large piles of seed outside the gin. This will be processed further for other products

All in all it was a great day and we thank Nancy Caywood for the very informative tour. Now when we drive throughout Arizona and see all the cotton farms, we’ll have a new appreciation for the crop and the people that work so hard to produce it, especially given the limited water supply.

To learn more about Caywood Farms, you can visit their web site at www.caywoodfarms.com or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/caywoodfarms/

Thanks for riding along with us. Visit our You Tube channel @ herbnkathyrv to see some of the videos we’ve produced

And remember … not all who wander are lost – J. R. R.Tolkien

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
NOTE: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.