So Just What Is Fort Peck?

Fort Peck – It’s a small town (about 250 residents) and it’s an Army Corp of Engineers “Project” that includes a dam, a campground, an Interpretive Center, and multiple fishing/boating/hunting recreation areas.

Oh, and I almost forgot … the reason all of the above is here … the Fort Peck Reservoir. The reservoir (man made lake) was formed from the Missouri River, is 135 miles long and has over 1500 miles of shoreline. It was formed in the 30’s when 10,000+ men built the world’s largest earthen dam to provide flood control for lands downstream.

The dam and the history of how families came from all over the country to work there and the engineering that went into the planning and building … well that’s a story in itself and will require a blog post dedicated to that subject alone. But you can learn all about that right now by following this link to PBS Montana.

For now, we want to share with you a little about why we are here, how we came to find this job in particular, and take you on a tour of the park and show you some of our duties here.

Kathy and I are volunteers … well, kind of. We travel the country volunteering our time at campgrounds and RV parks in exchange for the rent and utilities on our site. We generally provide the park 12-15 hours a week and they give us a full hook-up (elec, water, sewer) site along with utilities. Sometimes we also receive; laundry money, free WiFi and cable TV hook-up, and discounts on purchases from the camp store or nearby attractions.

This arrangement offers us an opportunity to travel and see the country, meet all kinds of wonderful new people and experience new situations in all kinds of environments that we otherwise would not be able to see and do on our limited budget.

It offers the campground owner/operator free part-time employees for no cash outlay, only the loss of rental income for a couple RV sites that might often be vacant anyway. Another benefit: typically there is no employment contract or agreement to sign – only a handshake agreement. It’s called bartering. And it works well for us and the campground owner.

How we came to show up here ..

We knew that part of our “Bucket List” included a lot of the national parks and monuments out west, so we decided we’d search for jobs in that area.

Although we subscribe, either for a small annual fee or sometimes for free, to many of the Workamping web sites and have our resume’ published on a lot of them, there is also another great source for finding government related jobs and volunteer positions. I logged on to Volunteer.gov and followed the easy instructions to search for Campground Host (volunteer) positions available in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. I filled out the online application and with just a few mouse clicks submitted our app to probably 40 or so parks in that five state area.

Within a week or two we started getting emails and phone calls from campground managers and rangers throughout the 5 state area. We chose to come to Fort Peck because we were already committed to South Dakota for July, August, and September and Ranger Scott here at Fort Peck was willing to work with our schedule. We left our leased RV lot in Casa Grande Arizona on April 1st and showed up at Fort Peck on April 15 just after the snow melted.

It’s been fascinating to learn about the local history. The town of Fort Peck was built by the corp to support the nearly 50,000 people that would come here to work on the building of the dam over the 10+ year period of 1930 to 1941. There were as many as 11,000 men working on the dam at any one time during that period and eight men lost their lives during “the Big Slide” of 1938 and are permanently entombed in the dam to this day.

To learn more about the dam building and how the town and local area and people from far and wide prospered during the depression, I encourage you to follow this link to visit the PBS web site with some great pictures from the era and a video about the building of the dam.

Our Camp Host Site on day one – April 15th
The theatre operated 24/7 during construction of the dam with newsreels, movies and live plays to entertain the workers and their families and still offers summer plays to locals and visitors to the area.
The Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial Park in the center of town
The world’s largest earthen dam, 4 miles long, 3/4 mile wide at the base, and 250′ tall.
The Spillway located 3 miles east of the dam. Yes, that’s ice on the downstream side
The Interpretive Center contains displays information on the dam, local paleontology, and local fish and wildlife along with an educational movie theatre

There was a T-Rex discovered here (now on display at the Smithsonian) with a full-size replica here in the Interpretive Center.

The Fort Peck T-Rex in the Interpretive Center

Here’s a video that gives a tour of the campground and some of the surrounding area along with a little bit of what we’ve been doing at the park these first couple of weeks.

10 minute video on the Downstream Campground – Fort Peck Montana

Thanks for riding along and visiting. We’re having fun and intend to keep posting to share a little of our time here. Please leave any comments below and be sure to subscribe to our You Tube channel so you always get the latest videos as soon as they are published. I usually try to make the videos available here via the blog as well.

Until next time, best wishes to you and yours from HerbnKathy

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

It’s Worth Saving


There are not many trees here in the prairies of northeast Montana, so whenever a tree can be saved .. it is.

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

The Landscape Keeps Changing

As we travel north to Montana, we are constantly blessed by the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Kathy and I were born and raised in the midwest and the beauty we saw there was in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan shoreline along northwestern Michigan. If you haven’t spent any time in Michigan, you must do yourself a favor and take a driving tour along Michigan’s northwest coast.

But the scenery we’ve been exposed to these last few months has been so colorful, so impressive and awe-inspiring that I just had to share a few pictures here.

This is a short video showing the landscape up RT 89 north of Congress AZ where we spent our first night at the Escapees North Ranch RV Park.

An overlook of Congress, AZ just across from the Yarnell Memorial to the Granite Mountain HotShots – Nineteen men who lost their lives on June 30, 2013

Our second stop wasn’t really “natural” but man-made. When you take in how massive this project is and what man created here … that alone is beauty in it’s own right.

Hoover Dam is an arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Nevada and Arizona. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Hoover Dam is 726 feet high. It is 650 feet thick at the bottom and 45 feet thick at the top. The purpose of the Hoover Dam is for power, silt and flood control, irrigation, and water for both industrial and domestic use. When Hoover Dam was finished in 1936 it was the world’s largest hydroelectric power station. The four intake towers (penstocks) on the north side of the dam take in water from Lake Mead and feed up to 91,000 gallons (each) of water per SECOND to feed the two banks of seventeen hydroelectric generators that produce over 2,000 megawatts of capacity and produce a yearly average generation of 4.5 billion kilowatt hours to serve the annual electrical needs of nearly 8 million people in Arizona, southern California, and southern Nevada.

One of the most interesting facts I learned about Hoover Dam (originally called Boulder Dam) is that the design included a HUGE refrigeration plant to cool the concrete as it cured. We were told during our tour that had they not provided artificial cooling to the concrete it could have taken a hundred years or more to cool and cure correctly so as to avoid premature cracking and failure.

Here’s a few pictures of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam showing how much lower the water level is than it was in the past. (It’s gone down 75′ in the last twenty years)

Remember, clicking on any of the individual images below will open a larger view.

Here’s a view from one of the overlooks at Lake Mead showing the marina. You can see how much lower the lake has become in recent years.

As we headed north from Boulder City Nevada and Hoover Dam, our next stop was Zion National Park.

We actually parked the coach at Ruby’s Campground at Bryce Canyon and then took the car to visit Zion National Park and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab Utah.

Unfortunately, we were unaware that you had to call ahead and make reservations for a tour at Best Friends, so all we were able to do is visit the Visitor Center and take a drive through part of the grounds and see a few horses. They have tens of thousands of acres and lead tours in small vans – something we’d still like to do but just ran out of time (and daylight) the day we were there. Click on the video below of a waterfall in Zion — it’ll zoom right in on the source.

A waterfall at Zion National Park

We came back to the coach, spent a second night at Ruby’s and then went on to visit Bryce Canyon National Park the next day. We could take the main road about 12 miles into the park after which the path was closed due to roads blocked by the snow. It would take a few more days/weeks of nice weather to get to the point that the park would be totally open to visitors.

But what we were able to see was Oh So Impressive! (click on any pix for a larger view)

Click on the video below

Panoramic view from Inspiration Point overlooking the hoodoo’s

After visiting Bryce, we took a drive over to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

The next morning we hooked up the car to the back of the coach and left Bryce continuing our trek north. We decided not to stop at Salt Lake City, but instead continue on to Rock Springs, Wyoming where we new there was a county fair grounds and event center with 1200 full hook-up sites (water, sewer, electric) and we knew there was a pretty hefty winter storm coming our way. We knew we could hook up and “hunker down” at Rock Springs if we needed to for a few days.

The “Toad” and the bikes on the back of the coach

We’ll tell you more about that in our next post. ’til then …. thanks so much for riding along. I just wanted to share with you some of the amazing beauty we’re seeing out west.

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog, just enter your email address in the little box at the top right side of this page and you’ll automatically be sent an email each time we publish a new post .. no need to keep coming back to see if there’s anything new – you’ll get it as soon as it’s published!

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

The Magnificent Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro Cactus (pronounced Sawarro) is the largest of the cactus family and can live to be 150-200 years old. These are found in The Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico and occasionally in southern California.

These cactus have one tap root that only goes down about 2 feet or so and other roots that spread out just below the surface and spread out as far as the plant is tall. Although a 10 year old plant might only be about 1″-2″ tall, they can grow to be 40-60 feet tall and sprout their first “arm” at about 150 years old.

The Saguaro get most of their moisture during the summer rainy season and can end up weighing between 3000-5000 pounds. Arizona has strict regulations about harvesting or collecting Saguaro.

Once a Saguaro dies, the woody ribs can be used to build furniture, roofs, or fences.

A healthy Saguaro about 40′ tall in the National Forest

We hopped in the car and took a day trip down from our winter home at Rover’s Roost RV Park to visit the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, the Saguaro National Forest and maybe the International Wildlife Museum.

The blue dot just to the left of Casa Grande shows our home and the red balloon about an hour southeast is the Saguaro National Forest where we spent most of the day

We headed down I-10 and entered the Saguaro National Forest from the north. Although the visitor center was closed due to the federal government shutdown, the park/forest was open and we could wander all we wanted.

As usual, 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.

There’s so much to see … even though we’re not hikers. And there’s many other types of cactus growing in this region besides the Saguaro. Some of it is even flowering now in the midst of winter when generally this happens in the spring.

We then drove on down the road a bit to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. But as it turned out, the entrance fee was $25 each and we were already half way through the day. We decided that for that price we had better come back another day to be able to take advantage of all the museum has to offer. We’ve heard lots of great comments from friends who have been there and want to be able to get our money’s worth.

But if you just can’t wait for our post about the museum, here’s a link to their web site to find out more.

Lunch is always a highlight of my day and this one was no exception. At the south end of the park trail is a nice little cafe called “Coyote Pause Cafe”.

After a late lunch we moved on down the road a little further to the International Wildlife Museum on Gates Pass Road. Although this museum costs only $7 each to get in, it was getting into mid-afternoon and we wanted to hit the road (I-10) before the Tucson rush hour traffic.

We’ll come back another day here too. But at least now we know what we want to see and where it is.

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”.

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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”.

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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