Tourist Review – Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site

We’ve been traveling the country for about five years now and we “workamp” or volunteer as we go. We usually work 12-15 hours per person per week in exchange for our RV site and utilities. Sometimes we get a little extra too, maybe reduced cost at the park store or restaurant, free laundry or some other perk to help out with our monthly living expenses.

We’ve worked in commercial RV parks, public park campgrounds, museums, and fish hatcheries.

But we’ve never worked at a prison!

Our good friends Matt and Sherry had an interesting gig this past spring working (volunteering) at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site at Laramie, Wyoming. They dressed in period costumes and portrayed what it was like to work at (or be incarcerated in) the prison back in “The Olden Days”.

Full-time RV’ers Sherry and Matt

Well, since we were passing through the area (always looking for places to go and things to see), we took a few hours while we were staying at Cheyenne Wyoming and drove to Laramie to visit the prison.

The prison was built in 1872 and for 30 years it held a lot of violent and notorious outlaws including Butch Cassidy. It originally sat on 640 acres and the main building is over 18,000 square feet.

The prison is one of only three federally constructed territorial penitentiaries that still exist and the only one that has most of it’s original structure still intact.

The rooms that have been restored and are open for viewing include; the intake processing room, Warden’s office, the kitchen, north cellblock, dining hall, guards quarters, watchtower, infirmary, women’s cellblock, the prison bathroom, and the laundry.

The Prison Industries Building (also known as the Broom Factory) was built in 1892 by convict labor and holds the original broom making equipment that the convicts used to make the brooms that were sold all over the United States as well as being shipped overseas.

We found the venue really interesting to visit and just might like to work there ourselves in the future. Dressing up in period costumes and “playing the part” can be fun!

Thanks again for riding along and we hope to see you here again soon. In the meantime, be good to and for each other and you’ll be blessed back ten-fold.

Herb and Kathy

Tourist Review – The Messenger Museum @ Cheyenne, Wyoming

There’s a lot to see and do when visiting the Cheyenne / Laramie Wyoming area, but there’s more than a few hundred miles to go between now and Casa Grande, Arizona which is our target for November 1st. We knew we couldn’t see it all.

We talked with our good friends Matt and Sherry because they just spent a few months in this area volunteering at the Wyoming Historic Territorial Prison in Laramie and I knew they’d have some suggestions of where we might visit.

They enjoyed walking around downtown Cheyenne and visiting the Wyoming State Capital, the Wyoming State Museum, and other downtown landmarks along with taking in a visit to the Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins.

Although the exercise we’d get walking around downtown would do us all a lot of good, I knew my knees wouldn’t last very long. We spent some time looking online at reviews and found a lot of wonderful reviews for Messenger’s Old West Museum. We decided to check it out.

We found it on the near east side of downtown Cheyenne just north of I-80/US-30 (the Lincoln Highway). What a great find it was!

This is a private collection of Charlie and Katie Messenger that’s just chock full of Old West-era carriages, saddles, models & memorabilia exhibited alongside mounts of bears & wolves. No, they did not hunt/kill any of the wild animals exhibited, they bought them all from other collections. They started their collection over 30 years ago and opened it to the public 20 years ago.

It’s tucked away in a residential / light commercial neighborhood where the Messengers operate their self-storage business. In fact, the entrance to the museum is the same place that storage customers go to pay their rent. The day we were there one of their employees (Marco) welcomed us and allowed us to start our self-guided tour. We were the only ones there and as we each were drawn to different displays, you could hear any one of us exclaim “Oh Wow! – Look at This!”.

What’s really great about this collection is the way all the items are displayed. It’s as if the owner secretly holds a degree in Museum Conservatorship or has received special training as a Museum Curator. It’s wonderful to read about what you’re looking at. Not just what it is, but where it came from, how the Messengers obtain the item, and the significance to their family.

The carriages are especially awesome. These are all REAL horse drawn carriages from the 1800’s old west that have been lovingly restored and/or rebuilt. The Messenger family has driven all of these carriages at one time or another and many of the antique automobiles too for participation in a parade or serving as props in television commercials advertising tourism in Wyoming.

The big burgundy colored carriage in the picture below (Overland Stage Line) is Buffalo Bill’s personal carriage and harness.

None of the items in the collection are replicas, they’re the real thing.

Marco told us that it’s too bad we came in early morning and Charlie (Mr. Messenger) wasn’t there yet. This has been a labor of love for the Messengers for many years and Charlie typically stops in daily to check up on the business and often chats with visitors about some of the displays giving the guests more insight on the history of the early west.

After our visit we (of course) stopped for lunch and afterward we were nearly back to our camp in Pine Bluffs when my cell phone rang. It was Charlie. He was hoping to catch us before we were out of town so that we could visit a while.

It wouldn’t work this time, but we’ll be sure to leave Messengers Old West Museum on our Bucket List for the next time we are anywhere near Cheyenne Wyoming. And you should too!

The museum is open Monday-Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm, no admission charge, but donations are welcomed.

That’s all for now, but more to come … thanks for riding along. Take Care of yourselves and each other.

Herb & Kathy

What? No Power In The RV?

It was about 8:30 at night, we were watching one of our favorite Netflix pix on TV and “poof” out went the 110v to the coach. All the 12 volt circuits were still working. I looked out the window, didn’t see any lights on at the neighboring camp site – guess the whole campground must be out.

What to do? Go to bed – what else? Since we’ve got a couple hundred amp hours worth of battery I could’ve turned on the inverter and finished the show, but what the heck.

In the morning I saw that the gentleman cleaning the bath house had arrived and took a walk down to see if he knew anything about the power outage. He knew nothing about it and further … the lights in the bath house were lit!

OK now it’s time for me to get to work and investigate the problem. Always start with the easiest (or most obvious likely) suspect component first.

  • Check the park power pedestal. Turn the 50 amp circuit breaker on and off to reset it if needed.
  • Follow the power cord to the EMS (electrical management system) and check to see that the digital display (or LED’s) are reading correctly with no errors.
  • Check the 110v circuit breakers inside the coach (my Square D panel is at the foot of the bed). Turn off and back on each breaker to assure it is reset.
  • Locate the converter/inverter/charger and check to make sure the circuit breakers have not tripped here.

So at this point we’ve checked all the easy suspected problem areas without having to remove any panels or take out our voltmeter to do any further checking. Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty.

So at this point we know the pedestal power is good because the Progressive Industries EMS is showing adequate voltage on each of the two legs with no error codes.

We know that the 110v circuit breakers at the foot of the bed are all switched ON and we know that the GFCI circuit breaker (in our case in our bathroom at the wash basin) has not tripped.

Our next step is to remove the cover on the inverter that will allow us to gain access to the terminal strip where I can take a couple quick voltage checks. The terminal strip has (6) screw terminals. Three are for the input Line 1, Line 2 and neutral and the other three are for the output Line 1, Line 2 and neutral. A quick check with the AC voltmeter (that every RV’er should have in their tool bag) shows no input to the inverter.

So what is between the EMS and the inverter?

On our coach (and most others) we find an automatic power transfer switch. The purpose of the Transfer Switch is to feed 110v power to the coach from EITHER the shore power pedestal OR the onboard diesel generator. There is a circuit board inside the enclosure that has three terminal strips, two large relays, along with time delay circuitry to make sure that the incoming power from either the shore power or the generator is up to adequate voltage before energizing the appropriate relay. Only one source is allowed to feed the coach at a time.

Once I took the cover off the Transfer Switch, the answer to my problem was obvious. One of the relays had a burnt wire coming off it and connecting to the circuit board. Evidently the screw attaching the wire had worked loose (It’s a 20 year old rig after all) which caused an increase in current draw and subsequent heat that ultimately burned the insulation off the wire and also burned through the circuit board.

Unfortunately, we are camping over an hour south of Rapid City SD where there is MAYBE an RV shop that might have a transfer switch in stock but it’s very likely a different brand or newer model that may not have the same physical characteristics as the Intellitec model that we have. I decided I’d look online to see if I could even FIND the Intellitec and lo and behold, they still do make it! This would make replacement a LOT easier, same wire lengths, same screw holes, etc.

Challenge is, by the time I get it ordered (today is Sunday of course) and the supplier ships it to us here in Hot Springs, we will be gone as we are leaving on Friday.

I decided my best course of action is to manually re-wire the connections (removing the generator from the circuit) and then order the new transfer switch to arrive at our park in Arizona sometime after we get there November 1st.

I removed the four wires from each of the terminals for the SHORE POWER and COACH and connected (using split bolts) the red to red, white to white, black to black, and ground to ground.

I then carefully taped all exposed metal connections with electrical tape to make sure there were no accidental shorts.

This didn’t happen all of a sudden. I blame myself for not catching it earlier. Kathy and I have both noticed over the last month or so that occasionally while watching TV, the screen flickers for an instant. The screen actually goes black momentarily. It’s not enough to reset the clock on the microwave, but it does flicker.

Also, about a month ago when I was in the basement compartment where the power comes in to the coach, I noticed a slight hum from the transfer switch box. I figured it was one of the relays humming and I know that relays will do that from time to time. I should have taken the cover off to investigate further at that time.

About a year ago I DID have the cover off and I checked all the screws on the circuit board terminal strip(s) where the wires come in to the board. I tightened them as needed. What I did NOT check however were the screws on the relays. Perhaps if I had checked and tightened them back then, this problem would not have occured.

Oh well …. live and learn, eh? Just thought I’d share with you one of the recent problems we’ve had and my troubleshooting approach to get to the answer.

Thanks for riding along – see you down the road.

Herb and Kathy

KC to Spearfish and beyond (Installment 4)

After Kansas City, we worked our way north and spent our first night’s stopover at a great little city park in Elk Point, South Dakota. $15/nite for 50 amp electric and water. There’s a dump station, but we didn’t need it.

The park has multiple ball diamonds, multiple picnic shelters, plenty of scattered picnic tables, and loads of playground equipment.

Read the plaque below and you’ll learn about how this site was actually a stopover for Lewis & Clark.

Historical Marker at Elk Point City Park
Kathy enjoying the playground at Elk Point

After Elk Point, we moved on and arrived at Spearfish South Dakota where we enjoyed meeting up with friends Matt and Sherry, Jim and Brenda, and Paul and Chris (who we spent a couple days with in Mason City Iowa) and they stopped by on their way to Rapid City. The next day David and Susan came on up from Custer State Park where they were volunteering to join us all for the day.

Spearfish, as you might recall is the town where some of us volunteered at DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery a couple years ago. It was good to see the recently re-painted fish car!

It was great to spend the evening around the campfire at Volunteer Village again

While at Spearfish, I noticed a small leak under the coach. It was coming from the “wet bay”, where the waste tanks (and the drain pipe) are located. Further inspection showed that the 3″ pipe coming out of the black tank had a very small leak at one of the fittings. I could see (once I got down on my hands and knees) that this joint had been repaired before by the previous owner.

We were fortunate in that a RV repair shop was just up the road in Belle Fourche (pronounced “Bell Foosh”). I called them, explained our plight that we were full-time RV’ers and were planning to head out tomorrow to Fort Peck Montana for a few days. They had us bring it right on in.

Jim the owner came on out and looked over the situation, assured us he had the necessary fittings and could get us back on the road in a couple hours. He did a great job, I was right by his side and we had some great conversation while he was doing the repair. It ended up he took out all the old, and provided new fittings and a new elbow and we were out of there and back to Spearfish before noon that day.

After about a week, we traveled north back up to Fort Peck Montana and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers campground we had volunteered at in 2019. We wanted to check in on the two rangers we had worked for while we were there.

On the way, we stopped for an overnight stay at Miles City Montana. We were going to stay at the local Elks Lodge, but it was in a noisy downtown district right along a truck route and we were fortunate to stumble across the local county fairgrounds. We had a very quiet and restful evening parked alongside the ag building.

The next morning we found a great little coffee shop downtown where we got our morning boost (and a little something sweet too!)

After our morning boost we visited the Range Riders Museum right across the street from the fairgrounds. I have never been in a museum with such a wide range of collections. It was great to talk to the ladies up front and find out a little about the “Range Riders”. These were ranchers and cowboys who worked their livestock on the open range (no fences).

The museum was founded in the 1930’s and still operates with mostly volunteers. Although I took tons of pictures while visiting, I now find they have a great web site with a lot of great information about the museum. I invite you to take a few minutes and explore the Range Riders Museum to learn about a lost way of life in western America.

If you’d like to see my photos, you can follow this link to my Google Photos album of the museum.

From Miles City we made it the rest of the way up to Fort Peck for a couple days. Check out the picture below that shows the final result of one of the volunteers who made the little camper lending library.

It was good to visit with both Ranger Scott and Ranger Sue again. Since the Interpretive Center is a federal building, masks are required. Scott is in charge of the campground and Sue is responsible for the Interpretive Center. To see more of our time at Fort Peck back in 2019 you can follow this link.

There’s more … but I’ll save that for another time. Thanks for riding along, hope I didn’t bore you too much. I know I can get a little wordy and I’ll work on the next post to cut out some of the details.

Thanks again.

Herb & Kathy (currently at Angostura Recreation Area – Hot Springs SD)

Our Trek West (Installment 2)

Tuesday morning we left the Shiawassee County Fairgrounds and heading to the Ludington Michigan area. We pulled in to our Harvest Hosts location just north of U.S. 10 and about 15 miles east of the Lake Michigan shore at Ludington. We’d been in this area of Michigan many times over the past 50 years or so … starting with trips with the family as we were kids growing up, then spending our honeymoon in northern Michigan and most recently volunteering at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park during the summers of 2017 and 2018. So this in some ways is “Old Home Week”.

As a member of Harvest Hosts, we are able to stay in driveways and parking areas of wineries, distilleries, museums, galleries, and other small businesses who invite RV’ers to park on their property overnight. It is suggested (although not mandatory) that the traveler returns the favor by purchasing something from the host.

We pulled in to Craig’s place, tucked into the tall pines of northern Michigan. His gallery, just across the driveway from the house, is filled with all sorts of hand made woodcraft. Loads of small handcrafted smoking pipes, kitchen spoons and spatulas, and cutting boards along with much larger artwork. We bought a really nice mitten-shaped (Michigan) maple cutting board. We admired other pieces but living in a motorhome, we just don’t have the luxury of square footage for larger items.

Once we parked the rig at Craig’s place, we unhooked and drove the car about 15 miles south to PM Oaks at Baldwin. There we were to meet Kathy’s cousin and her husband who we hadn’t seen in about twenty years or so. They used to live in southeast Michigan (where we were from) but have lived in Traverse City for nearly a quarter century now.

We met at PMO as they have a nice shelter/pavilion along with an air conditioned clubhouse we could sit and visit at without feeling as though we were being rushed to leave like might happen if we met somewhere in a restaurant.

By now it was getting to be late afternoon, so we decided we would leave PMO and meet down the road for an early dinner. After that they would move on home to Traverse City and we would head on back to Craig’s place for the night Well ……..

That all SEEMED like a good plan but, … as I turned the key on the car … crank crank crank … but no start. We sent Sue and Loren on home as we had friends there at PMO who could lend us jumper cables, a ride back to our rig, and more.

We had the car towed to a shop down the street for repair, had dinner at Chuck & JoAnne’s (our friends at PMO) and then finally settled in for the night. The shop said they’d get the car in about 11a.m. on Wednesday and I reminded them that I needed to know ASAP on Wednesday if we’d get it back that day because we had an already paid reservation on the SS Badger to cross Lake Michigan on Thursday. If it was not to be that we’d be fixed in time for the trip, I needed to cancel in hopes that we’d get at least some of our money back.

Wednesday morning I connected with a fellow high school graduate of ours (Class of ’72) who, as it turned out had in the past couple of years purchased a former lakeside resort (3 cabins) on Lake Cecilia just down the road from PMO. We had connected on Facebook months earlier and made plans to get reacquainted (we hadn’t seen each other or even talked since 1972) on this trip. Because our car was in the shop, Rich drove on over to PMO and picked us up. We spent all morning and into the afternoon having a wonderful visit with Rich and his wife Diane at their beautiful cabin(s) by the lake. They’ve done a wonderful job remodeling/restoring while keeping the 1940’s vintage lakeside cabin theme. We envy their drive and their creativity – they’ve got a charming place.

I’m just angry with myself that I didn’t get any pictures of Rich and Diane or their lakeside getaway.

Afternoon found us back at PMO enjoying an early dinner with our friends Chuck and Joanne along with Mike and Deb. It was great to have the opportunity to reconnect with all four of them again. During our meal the shop called to say the car was fixed and we could pick it up anytime.

Turned out that the A/C compressor had seized up and trying to crank the starter over and over to get the car started then burned out the starter. So a new starter and a/c compressor was needed.

We also found out that an RV site right behind Chuck and JoAnne’s would be available for us tonight so Chuck chauffeured me up to get the coach and bring it back down to PMO where we could plug in for the night. Then Chuck drove me up to the shop to get the car. After supper Kathy and I took advantage of the opportunity to get in the pool and just unwind and relax for a couple hours. All the stress of the last day or two just melted away knowing the car was fixed, we were parked in a spot where we could have a/c and we would easily make it to the ferry the next morning.

Again, I’m so sorry I never took any pictures of our friends at PMO or our time together.

Once unloaded at Manitowoc, we moved up just a few miles, parked our rig at the Elks Lodge for the night, and drove the car up to Green Bay where we met our good friends Forrest and Mary for lunch at Mackinaws Grill.

We had a nice, although brief visit. We caught each other up on where our travels had taken us over the last few months. Forrest and Mary have an RV lot just 4 spaces away from us at Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande AZ and they had come to visit us this past June while we were camp hosting at Dale Hollow Lake State Park in Kentucky. It was great to reconnect with them. Once again, I neglected to get a picture of Forrest and Mary too!

We went back to the Elks Lodge late afternoon, ran down the street to pick up some necessities at the local Walmart and then came back and enjoyed making new friends in the lodge. They welcomed us with open arms. We had a nice visit along with a couple drinks but it had been a busy day so we excused ourselves early, said our goodbyes and thank you’s and retired early to our home on wheels.

The next day found us driving 350 miles from Manitowoc Wisconsin to Mason City Iowa where we met up with Paul and Chris who we had first met when we were Workamping at Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston Texas. They had just (last week) finished up the sale of the family farm in Maynard Iowa, then they visited the Winnebago factory in Forest City Iowa to get a few small things taken care of on their (new to them) 2012 Winnebago Meridian 40′ motorhome.

Paul promised us that we would enjoy the best steam of our lives that night and they were right! My filet was “Melt In Your Mouth” good

Since Paul grew up in Mason City, he knew what to see and do for the short time we had available to us. We visited the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and others had performed at on February 2, 1959 before taking a flight to their tragic deaths in a nearby cornfield.

Here are some pix of the walls (and ceiling) of the “green room” where the performers prepared to go on stage. See how many signatures of the hundreds that are on these walls that you might recognize!

That’s all for this installment. The next leg of our trip will find us driving 335 miles from Mason City Iowa to Lee’s Summit Missouri. We meet up with friends Ron and Judy for time together along with the four of us visiting our friend Carl and touring his mausoleum.

I’ll fill you all in on that in the next few days.

In the meantime, take care of each other and stay healthy … we wish you well.

Herb & Kathy

Mexico Day Three

Day three (Saturday February 15th) started out another beautiful sunny wonderful day in paradise. After breakfast in the coach – Kathy with her oatmeal and me with my scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onion, and a little potato mixed in – we headed on over with the others to the pavilion in the center of the zoo. Here we met with zoo biologists and keepers where we divided into four groups of 12 and then headed out for our “up close and personal” tours of the Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe.

Our tour group leaders (biologists, keepers, veterinarian, director)

This zoo was started dozens of years ago by the owner of the Jersey Dairy Company. He and his family created, managed, and funded the zoo. In recent times, this man passed away and as a result just this year the zoo no longer gets any funding from him or his family. The zoo is now a not-for-profit organization and relies on admission prices and donations to stay afloat. It became very clear to us during our tours that the employees of the zoo (11 employees total) are working here because of their love for the animals. This .. in many ways is their family.

The Escapees RV Club Chapter 8 “Mexican Connection” came here last year and again this year to not only be entertained but also to help out both physically and financially through our admission fees and our auction that will be held here later this week.

Antonio – Our tour guide for the day – 32 year old Zoo Biologist

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger image.

Antonio led us on a very informative tour and it became clear very quickly that he and his co-workers care very much for the animals. Nearly all of the animals here arrived from the government. Many have been confiscated at ports of entry or have owned by individuals as family pets and then have been abandoned or given up when they became too big and no longer manageable (or affordable) to keep as pets.

The government has no means to care for them so they come here to Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe. Although the government gives them to the zoo to take care of for an undetermined time (during investigation and litigation) they do not give the zoo any funds to care for the animals. In some cases, the zoo may take care of these animals for years but the government can always come back and take them away.

Other animals are given to the zoo as gifts – which was the case with the 40+ peacocks that they have. These were a gift from a priest.

One of three swimming pools

The “Zoo” is much more than a place to see animals. The Guadalupe Valley is generally an area of very poor families. When the zoo was started, the owners wanted it to be a place where local families could come and learn, play, eat, and enjoy family time together.

In fact, up until very recently all it cost for admission for a whole family was a Jersey Dairy Milk bottle cap. The children could provide a day of fun for the whole family just by saving their bottle cap from their milk at school and presenting it at the front gate to the zoo.

There are three swimming pools, a pond with paddle boats and lots of shaded picnic tables. Families are encouraged to bring their picnic baskets and enjoy the day together.

After our tour of the zoo we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Some went into town right away while others took care of chores at home. We evidently picked up a nail or screw as we got close to the zoo on Friday because by the time we pulled in to our parking spot our “toad” had a flat tire.

Bummer

But not to worry – I’m sure there’s a tire shop in town somewhere and we don’t need to drive anywhere anytime soon – there are others here that we can carpool with to any of the local attractions.

Although Guadalupe Valley is very poor, it is rich with vineyards and wineries. But these vineyards and wineries are not owned by local people nor do they employ local people. You’d think that the local economy would be lifted by these wineries, but they are owned and operated by companies from Tijuana or Mexico City and they bring in their employees from out of the area. Go figure.

We finished off the day with a visit to Baron Balche’ Winery where we had a tour, a wine tasting, and dinner. What a wonderful cap to a fantastic day!

Be sure to click on the thumbnail pictures above so you can see more of the detail. You can see in one of the pictures the rough rock walls encompassing the cellars.

Each of the large stainless steel tanks hold 7500 liters of wine – there were about 40 of these huge tanks. There were HUNDREDS of White Oak barrels. The barrels come from French Oak or American White Oak and there are two sizes of barrels – either 300 or 600 liters.

There is NO heat or A/C in the cellars – they are literally dug out of a whole in the ground. It’s a constant 55 degrees and very humid – water drips down the walls so they have fans blowing to keep the air moving so mildew doesn’t form.

It’s been another busy educational, fun, and rewarding day. Now off to bed because “Tomorrow’s Another Day”

Thanks for riding along – we hope you can make it with us to Day 4!

Mexico Day Two

We (Group 1) left Potrero Park at 7:30 a.m. Our group is the Parking Group so we need to head out before any of the other groups so we can be in place at the next location far enough ahead so we can be set up and ready to Park all the other rigs coming in behind us. There are 3 other groups consisting of 5 or 6 rigs each.

Since we all have our FMM cards already, we COULD have been swept right through the border crossing. But Kathy and I weren’t so lucky.

The official stopped us, checked our registrations, looked in a couple cabinets, and then greeted us with “Happy Valentine’s Day”

We moved on through the gates and all 6 rigs in Group One stayed in touch on our CB radios as we traveled the next 50 or so miles down to Zoologico Parque del Nino in Guadalupe Baja California Mexico.

Once we arrived, our fearless Group One (parking group) leaders Jim and Connie gave us our instructions along with our bright orange safety vests and flags. We we’re now official parking team members!

Our official uniforms

We then spent the next couple hours greeting and parking rigs as each subsequent group rolled in.

We we’re the first rig in so we got the prime spot in the corner closest to the wolves and the lion!

Right up front closest to the action

After we got all the rigs parked, we all wandered over to Ed & Kassandra’s (Our Trip Leaders) rig to pick up our new Baja jackets and get an update on the schedule for the coming days. Ed talked a little about the history of the Baja Jacket and his design for the logo embroidered onto the front.

Right after the afternoon meeting we moved on into the zoo where we were gifted with a beautiful Valentines Dinner prepared by the park owners daughter who is also a recently graduated chef! The meal was a delicious dish of Mexican Lasagna with green salad and refried beans served with fresh sangria or a unique cucumber/lemon drink and topped off with Red Velvet cupcakes.

And another special treat of the night was a gift from Malcolm Russ – one of our own who, as it turns out is a retired professional musician and vocalist who has played in national orchestras as well as smaller venues all over the country. He took requests, while also giving us some great love songs to bring the evening to a close.

Day three brings us a personal guided tour of the zoo with a close-up look at the animals with led by one of the two zoo biologists.

Stand by for more!

Stopover at Potrero

We drove yesterday from the SKP Park in Yuma (where we spent Sunday night) on over West to Potrero County Park.

It was mostly a great drive, with a little rain and a LOT of wind .. it was definitely a two-handed drive! The scenery was fantastic, along westbound I-8 (I wish I had pulled over to take a picture) there were miles and miles of huge, smooth boulders as far as the eye could see. It’s so fascinating to see all the different types of landscape we see as we travel.

These were large hills (or small mountains) made of millions of huge (larger than a truck / some larger than a commercial building) smooth-surfaced stones mounded on top of one another.

The colors ranged from white to sand to deep browns and reds. No jagged edges here like so many other geologic formations we’ve seen, just big rocks smoothed over millions of years by what force? Did they all actually used to be in a huge ancient riverbed whose cool running water smoothed them?

Once we got off I-8, we traveled about 25 miles west to Potrero County Park where we met up with about 20 or so of our fellow Escapees who are going to be our travel partners to Mexico over the next couple weeks.

Our home at Potrero for a couple nights

Last night we had a Happy Hour at the park shelter where those of us that are here early could get together and share some munchies and get to know one another. Seems about half the group so far are returning travelers while the others like us are “Newbies” to the Mexican Connection trip.

Our social time on our first night at the staging location at Potrero County park

Today the group leaders and some of the board members are headed across the border to Tecate just to make sure all is in order for our excursion there tomorrow. While we are in Tecate tomorrow we’ll get our Mexico FMM card, exchange some U.S. dollars for pesos, and visit a local bakery and brewery.

Can’t wait!

Working With Historicorps (National Elk Refuge)

When we were at our RV lot in Casa Grande AZ last winter, we took the time to attend our Escapees RV Club annual rally (Escapade) that was being held at Pima County Fairgrounds at Tucson, AZ.

Kathy enjoying an ice cream treat at the Escapade with new friends Connie and Dennis

This was the 59th annual Escapade and was, as usual, full of educational seminars, live entertainment, food, impromptu happy hours and a large vendor fair selling all things RV related. You can check out the 60th Escapade information to be held in July 2020 at Rock Springs Wyoming by following this link.

One of the “all in” evening gatherings at Escapade

One of the seminars that Kathy and I attended was put on by Liz Rice of Historicorps. Historicorps is a 10 year old organization that works with (typically) government agencies to restore and preserve historic buildings on federal or state lands like; national forests, state parks, and more. They solicit volunteers to do the work and some of those volunteers, like us, are RV’ers. Here’s a link to their completed projects over the last few years. As of this writing, there is only one project scheduled for 2020 (in Puerto Rico) but I know there will be many more published as we work through the winter into spring.

Kathy and I decided that there was one of their projects that would fit right into our travel schedule in late summer/fall 2019. We realized that after D.C. Booth in Spearfish SD we would then be visiting Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park along with some other spots of interest on our way back to Arizona for the winter.

The project we decided to volunteer for was the rehab of the historic Miller Barn on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson (Hole) Wyoming. (just south of Yellowstone). The project work would be mostly painting, with some replacement of wood siding and restoration of window sills and frames.

The Miller Barn at the beginning of the project
The Miller House and barn were built in 1898

Kathy, feeling a little hesitant about working with hand tools, decided that she would be happy to work in the mess tent and kitchen, but ultimately she got involved in some painting too!

Bacon and eggs for 10
Kathy and Doug painting some of the new replacement siding before installation
Kathy priming the replacement siding before installation

If you know me at all, then you know I’m not comfortable with heights over about 6-8 feet yet there was at least one time that I got up into the bucket for a few hours to paint the gable end of the barn.

No, that’s NOT me in the bucket – I’m taking the picture this time

There were 10 volunteers – two couples and the other volunteers were single folks. 3 or 4 of the crew had worked with Historicorps on other projects in the past while 5 or 6 of us were new to working with this organization. The two couples lived in their RV’s and the Elk Refuge provided us with full hook-up sites. The others slept in tents or in their cars.

Brian and Jeanette showing off their painting expertise!

We had two crew leaders … Ruthie and Daniel. Ruthie was the Chief and has worked with Historicorps many times over the years while Daniel was new to the organization. Daniel, in addition to being the new guy on the block running a crew (and the youngest in our group) was responsible for helping to give training and direction to the volunteers and he was also responsible for planning our meals, buying all the food, and cooking our meals.

Crew Chief Ruthie using the electric plane on a piece of siding (to make it fit)
Daniel, our Assistant Crew Chief (and camp cook)
Elk Refuge Volunteer Camp along with the Historicorps Cook Tent
Pancakes and sausage … YUM!
Our crew enjoying a night out after a long day’s work

In addition to providing us with an opportunity to serve as volunteers, we were also provided with all the tools necessary to do the job, training, 3 meals a day, a full hook-up RV site …. and best of all … outstanding beauty in all directions!