Tourist Review – Harvest Host Stay@Pine Bluffs Distilling, Pine Bluffs, WY

We found Pine Bluffs Distilling on the Harvest Hosts web site and procured our reservation.

Normally HH stays are one night only, but we were going to be coming through Pine Bluffs Wyoming on Monday and that is the one day of the week they are closed. We asked if we could stay both Monday and Tuesday and they replied “Absolutely, c’mon ahead”.

We pulled in late Monday afternoon, enjoyed an early evening dinner “on the veranda” with David and Susan, and let the hum of the fast moving every-thrity-minutes trains lull us to sleep.

On Tuesday – after our trip into Cheyenne to visit Messenger’s Old West Museum, we came back to the distillery to enjoy some product samples and take a tour of the operation.

KeeLee our Mixologist/Bartender was fantastic. She is so talented and loves to share her knowledge with the customers. Their whiskeys are all made from grain that’s grown ONLY on local farms by local farmers – they are truly a Farm to Table operation. They have seven different whiskeys and one vodka and they use; wheat, rye, barley, oat, (and I can’t remember the fifth grain!). Click this link to see all seven beautiful bottles.

KeeLee gave us all samples of their different whiskeys as she explained the differences and what we would notice about them and then took our orders. Kathy and I both had cocktails and we have to say they were “the best we’ve ever had” although if you know us at all you know we are not big drinkers. But indeed they were good!

Then Aaron took us on a tour of the operation and explained how everything worked.

They’ve been in business about 3 years. The owner (Chad) was a conservation officer in Nevada, newly married and ready to start a family. He knew that he didn’t want to stay in that career line. He moved to Wyoming to work with his cousin farming the land.

Although he had no experience as a distiller or brewmaster, he knew what he wanted to do. He did his research, developed agreements with local farmers for the grain as well as suppliers of other needed materials and equipment, developed a business and marketing plan, procured a few investors, bought the land, had the building built and started production. It was about a $3 million dollar investment.

We said goodnight to our hosts and retired to our rigs for the evening. Even though there is a Union Pacific train going through town every 30 minutes, (seriously!) we still managed to have a great night.

Thanks again for riding along. Stay safe and be good to yourselves and each other.

Herb and Kathy

Tourist Review – Hot Springs SD

Our stay at Angostura gave us the opportunity to spend some time in Hot Springs visiting the local grocery store, the post office, one of the local barbers, the Pioneer Museum, the ACE hardware store, and at least three of the local restaurants more than once each during our stay.

We enjoyed visiting with the locals while we patronized their businesses and sought out opportunities to visit with other “travelers” along the way.

Fall River (also the name of the county) runs right down through downtown from north to south along the main drag. There are very few “new” buildings in town with most having been built in the early 1900’s and many including City Hall, the County Courthouse, the old Evans Hotel, the town school, the old hospital and a host of others were built in the late 1800’s.

These buildings are not only old, but beautiful as well for they are made of the brown-pink colored sandstone mined from one of the local quarries back in the day.

As always, click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger picture.

Here below are some pictures of the inside of the former Hot Springs School (used until 1963). It is now the home of the Fall River Pioneer History Museum. It’s three stories of classrooms plus a fourth floor attic that they are currently working to rehab into an art studio and gallery for community use. This school is up on the hill overlooking the town and the students had to climb up a couple hundreds steps (I’m guessing) to make it to class.

And today we see Moms and Dads all over the country driving their kids down a hundred foot driveway to sit in temperature controlled comfort while waiting for a school bus to come and pick them up! Remember when our parents would say “Quit complaining, when I was your age we had to walk 5 miles uphill both ways to and from school!” We were led to believe that we had it lucky, but now these kids today got it lucky even more so!

There are a lot more buildings to marvel at in Hot Springs as well as some nice neighborhoods to drive through as well.

With regard to any of the springs in town, we did not take advantage of a visit personally. The Evans Plunge is the largest, oldest, and most popular boasting a 70′ x 200′ indoor hot mineral spring fed pool that is tempered by cool fresh water from the Fall River. Another newer spring and Spa called Moccasin Spring caters to those that desire spa type treatments in addition to their outdoor multi-level soaking pools.

The following paragraph is taken from https://hs-sd.org/history (history of Hot Springs web site)

The biggest development in baths was the Plunge, built by Fred Evans in 1891. The building was constructed of wood, iron, and glass, and covered a pool approximately seventy by two hundred feet. Various slides, diving boards, rafts, and other accessories were provided for the enjoyment of the guests. Evans Plunge is still operating at the same site. In 1893, our sandstone City Hall (still used today), and an impressive sandstone public school building (now the Fall River County Museum) were built. By the end of 1893 the population of Hot Springs was estimated at 3350, and the city had laid more than five miles of sidewalk and graded more than three miles of streets in the preceding three years.”

And what’s traveling across the country without experiencing the local “Mom’n Pop” diners and cafes? I mean “Ya Gotta Eat” right?

We ate breakfast or lunch at; Morning Sunshine Cafe, Upper Crust Diner, Winners Circle Bar and Casino (at the bowling alley), Taco John’s, and the (new) Chicago Street Cafe that’s inside WillieJax Antiques and Pawn Shop.

We enjoyed our stay at Angostura Recreation Area and our frequent visits into Hot Springs (only about 4 miles away) but it’s time to move on down the road and meet up with our friends David and Susan. We will be traveling tandem for about the next month as we make our way back to Arizona for the winter.

So long for now, thanks for riding along and please feel free to leave a comment down below. If you’re not already getting automatic email notification of our new posts, you can look over in the right margin (sidebar) and enter your email address. Then you’ll get a brief email anytime we post an update.

Be good, take care of each other and if you’re on the road … safe travels to you. See you next time.

Herb and Kathy

Our Trek West (Installment 3)

It was a long drive (335 miles) down US-35 from Miles City Iowa to Kansas City Missouri. Normally we don’t push it this hard (we are retired after all) so we usually take our time.

We were on a schedule to get to Spearfish (South Dakota) before the Labor Day holiday weekend to make sure we could get a spot in the city campground and spend a few days with our friends Matt and Sherry before they were to leave Spearfish for points south.

But we wanted to stop and visit our friends Ron and Judy who live at Lee’s Summit (a Kansas City suburb) They had put us on to a great little city park just a few miles from their home. Once we were in the park and settled, Ron came and picked us up at the campground and took us back to their home where Judy had prepared a wonderful dinner for us.

Our nice shaded site at the Lee’s Summit City Campground

We had first met Ron and Judy when we all worked as volunteers at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in fall of 2019. We met up with them again when we were all at “The Big Tent” RV Show in Quartzsite Arizona in January of 2020. It was great to hook up with them again.

Our friends Ron and Judy

Kathy and I had also planned to meet up and visit with Carl who we had met in February of 2020 when we traveled with about 50 other members of our Escapees RV Club down into Mexico. While in Mexico, Carl had told us about his family’s mausoleum in Holden Missouri (near Kansas City). I was intrigued and wanted to see it if we were ever in that part of the country. Now was my chance!

We had told Ron and Judy about this over dinner and invited them to come with us the next day. They jumped at the chance as well. After all, how often do you get an invite to tour a mausoleum?

The next day the four of us jumped in their car and headed to Holden Missouri, about 30 minutes from the campground.

Carl was expecting us and gave us the “Grand Tour”. His Great-Grandfather built the mauseleum in the early 1800’s for his family, both those who had pre-deceased the construction and those that were to come in the future.

Carl aquuired the mauseleum from the family trust. He didn’t set out to own it, he was doing some family genealogy work and as a result of his research, he came across the mauseleum as part of the family history.

The more he looked at it and saw what a state of disrepair it was in, the more he was drawn to do something about it.

The roof has been replaced to stop any further water damage. Electric has been installed as well as a security system. Carl has opened the building and the surrounding grounds to the community for public events like craft fairs, scout campouts, church picnics and such.

There were 23 occupied crypts when Carl took possession and he has taken all the legal and ethical steps necessary to move the occupants to other locations. All the remaining caskets are now empty.

In looking at the pictures below (click on any thumbnail to open a larger view) you’ll notice that the entire structure is made of concrete. The walls, floors, stairways, and ceilings are all concrete. The crypts are also concrete with ornamental marble fronts that have the deceased name and dates engraved.

Now it was time to continue our trek west. We said our goodbyes to Carl and Ron and Judy and headed back to the campground for the night before starting our travels to Spearfish South Dakota the next day.

More to come in Installment #4 in the next few days.

All Good Things Come To An End

It’s been a great 3 months at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park. We’ve been Camp Hosts here. Not only is the park laid out beautifully with eighteen camp site loops of 8 spaces each (laid out in a wagon wheel fashion), but the work has been easy with plenty of unscheduled time available to us.

And the people – all the staff here have been just fantastic to get to know and to work with. We’ve been invited to come back in the future and who knows? It just might happen!

Some special people in our lives made our visit here really special. In early May our daughter and son-in-law (Sara and Stu) came down for a visit. They rented a camper right across from us. It was a great week! Stu got a lot of fishing in while we visited with Sara and as you can see from the pictures, we enjoyed some great meals together too!

In early June, good friends from Ohio and Arizona came for a visit. We shared a few meals together, we visited the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, we rented a deck boat and spent time out on Dale Hollow Lake, and we enjoyed each other’s company around the camp fire in the evenings.

Enjoying the slide off the deck boat on the lake

We want to acknowledge some of the folks at the park that made our time there so enjoyable.

Jenny (in the first picture below) is the General Manager of the entire park. She and her staff of about 45 are responsible for the campground, the lodge and dining room, the golf course, the picnic areas, and all the 3400 acres within the boundaries if the park. Jenny’s a super hard worker, great at multi-tasking and utilizes a great management style that has earned the respect of her staff. It’s a well-oiled smooth run operation that everyone at the park can be proud of.

Our next special person is Bobbi. Bobbi has responsibility to run the Country Store at the entrance to the campground. This entails registration of all new campers as well as keeping the store well stocked with all the goodies – food, ice, and souvenirs that travelers are looking for when they check in to a new place.

Robert, along with his work partner Jeff play a super important role in the campground. They do a super job of keeping the bathouses spotless. As we talked with campers, they always told us what a beautiful campground we had and what a fine job we did keeping the bathrooms so clean. We were always quick to tell them about and give credit to Robert and Jeff.

The spotless air conditioned bath / shower houses

Another special person that helped make our time at Dale Hollow (although I neglected to get a picture) was Gary, or “Speck” as he’s known at the park. Speck is the maintenance manager and he helped us countless times by getting us any tools or supplies we needed to do our jobs. He was also just a great guy to sit and talk with a bit. As he told us “just a country boy”. We always enjoyed talking with Speck.

You might recall that our arrival here was delayed from mid-March to mid-April because of my scheduled left shoulder rotater cuff repair surgery. I had the operation in Ohio on March 16th and the doc wouldn’t release me to drive the coach until early April.

Still, even though I could drive, my shoulder was still very stiff (and weak) and we knew I’d need some rehabilitation therapy in order to get me to as close to full range of motion as possible.

Once we got to Dale Hollow, I registered with Cumberland County Hospital and received twice weekly physical therapy through May and June. We went first thing in the morning Mondays and Thursdays. Sonya, Melissa, and Veronica did a wonderful job, the hospital is lucky to have such a great team running their PT department.

Not only did I get shoulder therapy, but both Kathy and I were able to receive traction (spinal decompression) for lower back pain. We’ve found over the past few years that we try to take advantage of this therapy whenever we find it exists in an area that we are in.

Kathy on the “rack” (Spinal Decompression Therapy)

We were originally scheduled to stay at the park through the July 4th weekend and depart on the 6th of July. We found out the week before the 4th that due to an administrative error our site was reserved for the July 4th weekend. Due to the fact that the park was reserved fully for the holiday weekend, we had no choice but to depart early.

That was fine for us since I had this upcoming hip replacement surgery with pre-op testing, it actually worked out great for us to head on out.

All in all, it was a great experience at Dale Hollow and we will miss our new friends. Maybe sometime in the future, we’ll be able to come on down for a visit. As a matter of fact we are already talking with our “gang of eight” about renting one of those big houseboats for a few days next summer!

Thanks for riding along with us, now to head on up to Ohio for a month or so to get this hip surgery and some rehab taken care of before we head west to Oregon. More on that to follow.

A Cabela’s Overnighter

(Continuing on our way to camp hosting at Dale Hollow Lake Resort State Park)

Although we wanted to try another Harvest Hosts location tonight, there weren’t any close enough to our route. We were deliberately taking local and state routes and staying off the internet. The trip, although a little longer, was far more beautiful winding our way on down into Kentucky’s horse country. The huge horse farms with their rolling green pastures were contained by what seemed to be endless black board fencing. The roads along the way are peppered with trees filled with lots of white and pink blossoms (crabapple / pear / dogwood)? It was a great escape from the boredom of the interstate although I’ll admit it did take a lot more concentration and energy to drive this route due to the hills and curves coupled with the traffic entering and exiting the roadway.

We could’ve stayed at any number of commercial RV parks, but we decided to opt for the Cabela’s right off I-75 on the east side of Lexington. Here’s the route we took today.

Our travel route to Cabela’s today

We used one of our favorite RV apps ALLSTAYS.com. The reviews from other RV’ers indicated it’s pretty quiet and safe with 24 hour security.

Our spot right around the corner from the front door

Usually there are 5or 6 spots available for RV’s, but about three of them are taken up by large shipping containers, presumably filled with new fixtures for some planned store remodeling. We grabbed the spot closest to the store entrance. There is also a dump station here with fresh water as well, but it’s out of order right now. We’re OK, we have a 70 gallon fresh water tank that I filled up when we left Ohio.

We went on inside, gave the lady at the service desk our card, and told them we were parked outside for the night and thanked them for letting us stay.

We each took a little nap this afternoon. We opened the windows that were not in direct sunlight, turned on the ceiling (exhaust) fans and soon fell asleep for an hour or so. The fans brought in fresh cool air and the whirr of the fans drowned out any parking lot sounds. It was nice.

Late afternoon came and we unhooked the car and went for a little drive around the area. Boy was that a mistake!!! As I should have realized, Cabela’s is in a developed area filled with lots of shopping, office complexes, and apartments and subdivisions. Those are places we don’t like to go to – especially during RUSH HOUR!

We did stop at Lowes to get a couple small springs for a fixit project I’ve got, then finally found our way back to peace and quiet at Cabela’s. We made our dinner of tossed salad with mushrooms, blueberries, salami, cheddar cheese, and hard-boiled egg. Kathy added crab meat to her salad.

Look what we found!

Freddy’s Steakburgers and Frozen Custard

After supper and a walk around the large Cabela’s parking lot, Kathy found this Freddy’s store at the outside perimeter of the lot. We agreed we would go there after our walk to get a little treat!

They call it “Concrete” – I call it a “Flurry” or “Blizzard” (Oreo Mint flavor)

Tomorrow will find us moving further south and arriving at Dale Hollow Lake State Park, our home for the next 3 months. We’ll leave the coach there and drive the car back up to Ohio to visit the doctor for a follow-up to my shoulder rotator cuff surgery. Hopefully he’ll tell me all is good and I can start physical therapy. There’s a hospital in Burkesville – about 30 minutes from the campground, where I can get started and hopefully soon after finish up on my own at the campground.

That’s all for now. I’ll follow up with another post once we get settled at Dale Hollow and have the opportunity to take a look around.

Stay safe …

Herb & Kathy

Time to Move On

Wow .. it’s been a year. How time flies. After having been on the road as RV Nomads for 4+ years, we finally came back to Ohio last March (2020) because of the Covid 19 virus.

And now a year later, were ready to move on – well, almost.

When we decided to go rv’ing full time in 2016 we sold our home in Ohio to our daughter Sara and son-in-law Stu.

When covid hit us all February of 2020 we were on our way to North Carolina to work in a campground for 3 months. At that point we didn’t know what was going to happen as many of the roadside truck stops and even highway rest areas were closing.

Restaurants were closing and some governors were even talking about closing the state lines. We were concerned that we were less and less safe with every passing day and every passing mile. Would we be able to move on if we felt unsafe in any particular location? We decided to head home to Ohio while we still could and where we knew what to expect.

A safe overnight stay at Orangeburg SC Elks Lodge on our trip northward

We have been blessed in that the kids (Sara and Stu) have an apartment up above the garage so Kathy and I have been able to live there the last year.

The main house to the right, the Bunkhouse above the garage to the left.

I haven’t written much the last year as it’s been pretty uneventful … trips to the grocery store were sometimes the highlight of the week!

I eventually took a part-time job working for the county transportation agency. This kept me busy about 30 hours a week while Kathy had taken on the responsibility of dog-sitting Stu & Sara’s 3 dogs, helping out with their laundry and keeping us all fed each evening.

My bus

Occasionally we’ve been meeting our small “group of eight” dear friends that we’ve known for years. We are “Brothers (and sisters) from another mother). We’d meet at one of our homes for a wonderful home cooked meal or, once we’ve felt more adventurous, met at a restaurant (mid-day when it’s less crowded)

We actually all went camping together last fall where we could enjoy our extended family while still being safe.

I got my Covid test last week in preparation for my shoulder surgery Tuesday. Ohio Health has an easy drive-up testing site.

The Ohio Health drive-up Covid testing site before my surgery

Now that I’m well on my way to a complete recovery, we decided to pull the coach out of storage, test all the systems to make sure all is well, and head on out to our camp hosting job in Kentucky.

We will be Camp Hosts at Dale Hollow Lake Resort State Park starting mid-April and running through the July 4th holiday.

After that, we’ll come back up to Ohio for a week or so to visit our doctors and get new prescriptions for the next year along with picking up anything we might have forgot to load into the motorhome this week.

Mid-July will find us heading up to Michigan where we will visit friends and relatives for a few days before moving on up into the Upper Peninsula then on into Wisconsin and continuing to the west coast and on down into Arizona for the winter.

Our planned trek back to Casa Grande AZ by Nov 1st

Thanks for following along and I’ll start posting more often now that we’re satisfying our “hitch-itch” and moving along.

Until next time, only our best wishes to you and yours for a warm and wonderful summer.

Herb & Kathy

Thinking About Full-Time RV’ing?

Are you an RV’er? Maybe you’re a Weekend Warrior? – does your RV spend more time in storage or parked in the driveway than on the road? Maybe you’ve dreamed of the time when you can “get outta Dodge” and hit the open road full-time?

As we’ve traveled and worked in RV parks, campgrounds, and museums around the country we’ve made many new friends with other full time RV’ers. We’ve had the opportunity to sit around the campfire or share a dinner together after work. We’ve all shared our experiences with each other and now we we want to share some tips that you might find helpful.

Is the full-time RV lifestyle really for me? If you have a partner, keep in mind that you’ll be spending a LOT of time with each other in close proximity. If you’re not already good with each other, getting rid of the house and changing your lifestyle so drastically might not be for you. Maybe you should just rent a rig and try a long trip away .. maybe a couple months or so to see how things go.

And while you are on this “Trial Run”, don’t chase down every destination you can – slow way down. Remember .. the purpose of this test run is to simulate what your life might be like when (and if) you do make the change to full time RV’ing. Running from location to location to “see everything we can” will more closely simulate a vacation than a lifestyle.

Most full timers stay one or more weeks in any one location .. sometimes even months. This gives one plenty of time to be able to become immersed in the surrounding area seeing lots of new sights and very often developing new lasting friendships that just wouldn’t happen if you’re only in a location for a couple days at a time.

If your trial run goes well then the next step might be to find an RV that fits your needs, likes, and pocketbook.

Again, renting a rig might be a good idea although most folks just find what they THINK they will like the first time. Studies show that RV’ers typically own three RV’s before settling down on one type or brand vs another.

There are just so many choices out there; travel trailer or fifth wheel or motorhome? What length? Gas or diesel engine? New or used? What floor plan suits you? Oh, and yes, what does the pocketbook allow? I’m not going to pretend to think I can tell you what type RV is the best, that’s a decision you’ll have to investigate further and decide on your own.

Read RV blogs written by actual RV’ers, not by professional writers. Follow RV’ing You Tube videos. Join Facebook RV groups. I especially recommend Chuck Woodbury’s “RV HORROR STORIES” on Facebook, you’ll learn a lot about what brands (and dealers) to stay away from.

Our personal experience has been that buying a good used rig is favorable to purchasing new. We had never done any camping of any sort in our 40+ years of marriage. Our first rig was a used 30′ Dutchman 5th wheel, followed a year later by a 34′ Monaco gas motorhome and then after another year we finally settled on our current 36′ Airstream diesel motorhome.

The fifth wheel was parked at a nearby lake adjacent to our pontoon boat, then we bought the gas Monaco after selling the 5’er and the boat. We made a few short trips with the Monaco gasser, but decided to buy the Airstream diesel pusher once we knew that we were going to “take the plunge” and go full-time.

All of these rigs had some problems, but none that convinced us we shouldn’t have made the purchase of a previously owned RV. Even though we had to pay to have some of the repairs made (I made many of the repairs myself), the cost was still FAR BELOW the cost of buying new. And further, we didn’t have the aggravation of trying to get warranty work taken care of. As you’ll learn soon enough, so many dealers use stall tactics to delay completion of your warranty work because they have a higher profit margin doing non-warranty work that’s paid by the customer rather than warranty work paid by the manufacturer. Again .. check out Chuck Woodbury’s “RV Horror Stories” page on Facebook to see what I’m talking about.

What about joining clubs? Our advice is don’t get caught up in subscribing to every magazine and joining every club out there. Many of the magazines are nothing more than corporate-owned platforms for advertising their (or their affiliates) products.

There are lots of clubs out there that cater to those who own a specific BRAND (Monaco, Arctic Fox, Airstream, etc.) of RV, others that attract owners of TYPES of RV’s (Pickup Campers, Fiberglass “egg” style campers, etc.)

Our advice is to look seriously at Escapees RV Club. This club was founded by a husband and wife full-time RV couple in 1978 who saw the need to come up with a way to support other full-time RV’ers. This club offers all the perks the other clubs offer (product discounts, caravans, rallies, training, etc.) but we’ve found it’s so much more than that. It’s truly like a family – our family out on the road. We encourage you to find out more at Escapees.com – at only $39.95 a year it’s a great bargain. If you DO decide to join, please mention our names as those who referred you – we get a little something. It all helps!

Have you thought about how you’re going to finance this new lifestyle? If you sell your sticks ‘n bricks home, you can use that money. Maybe you have an income stream that can work for you on the road. That’s one of the great things about technology today – many of us can work from just about anywhere provided we have a good internet connection. Or maybe your savings and investments you’ve developed can carry you a long way down the road.

Personally we decided we were going to live on our Social Security income and Kathy’s small pension from the school system she retired from while keeping our savings and investment nest egg intact.

In order to be able to do this we sold our modest home and paid off all our outstanding debt so that we were debt-free. We also determined that it would be less stressful (on our emotional well being and our pocketbook) if we were to Workamp and volunteer. We found that by volunteering 10-12 hours each week in exchange for our site and utilities we could live, in essence “rent free” and not receive any taxable income. To find out more about one of our Workamping experiences you can visit this link. You can also just use the search box here on our blog and enter the word “Workamp” or “Volunteer” to learn more about the types of opportunities that we’ve had.

What about an “Exit Plan”? After all, nothing lasts forever. If you DO decide to go all-in and sell the sticks-n-bricks home to hit the road full-time, what might you do when the time comes to get off the road? As we age, we tend to develop health issues that require more attention by medical professionals and could very well cause us to suspend travel – either for some extended period of time (while we recuperate) or permanently. So what might you do should that happen to you?

We’re getting close to 4 years full-time and much of that time we’ve been Workamping and volunteering and you can read more about some of those gigs here. But we have begun to think more and more about when that time comes for us.

Many RV’ers buy or lease an RV lot in a park or campground that they can use to “lay low” for extended periods of time. For us, we have a lifetime lease on an RV lot at Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande, AZ. This lot is ours for as long as we want and when we are not there, the lot is in the rental pool so we receive some income from the rental.

Do we miss our friends and family? Absolutely! We try to make a pass through Ohio once a year to visit. We realize that we don’t t need to be there all the time. With all the technology available to us today to visit online, our once a year visit in person gives us the recharge to head out again.

There are other more boring considerations too like; what to do about mail and packages, how and where do I get health care, what state do I claim as my “residence”, and figuring out what cell phone and internet plan might work best for you on the road.

I’ll talk about each if these issues in upcoming posts, but for now I think I probably have given you a bit to chew on.

So yes, there’s a lot to consider when thinking about making the move to full-time RV life.

I wish you well in this uncertain time and trust you will stay safe wherever you happen to be. Be good to yourself and to each other and “this too shall pass” in time – let’s just hope not too long.

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!

We’ve been volunteering for about 3 years now since we sold our sticks ‘n bricks and hit the road full time. All of our experiences have been rewarding and this was another great example of the wonderfully rewarding experiences.

This experience was especially fun because we were working (and relaxing) with other like-minded people from all walks of life but with the same interest in volunteering and seeing a project to completion. Different personalities of different ages, different walks of life, different work experiences but we all enjoyed each other’s company and respected each other’s contribution to the project.

By the way, what I haven’t already explained is that this was actually a 4 week project. Historicorps solicits volunteers for one-week stints, but they will allow you to stay longer. This means that the crew chiefs have to train a new crew every week. But it works for them as they can get more volunteers this way, not just counting on retired folks but getting those who are still working a regular job the opportunity to take a “volunteer” vacation that is very rewarding.

Thanks for riding along and stay tuned for more updates on our travel and volunteering experiences.

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Our Visit to Deadwood and Lead

Just want to let you know, it’s pronounced “Leed” not like pencil lead, but to “lead” a horse to water. The reason the town is called Lead is that there are quartz-like veins in the rock that “lead” the miner to the gold in the mines. Back in the day these were sometimes called Lodes .. as in “We hit the mother lode”.

We are so glad that we had the opportunity to visit and volunteer in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We have heard so much about the beauty that abounds in this area of the country and when we found out about the possibility of volunteering at D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives … well … we jumped at the chance!

A view of part of the hatchery grounds looking down from the trail

We are camped in “Volunteer Village” which is a separate area of the Spearfish City Campground. The entire campground is set along side Spearfish Creek that starts up in Spearfish Canyon and travels down through the City of Spearfish and travels north to eventually become the Redwater River and then ultimately into Belle Fourche Resevoir.

Our site along with the 9 other couples in Volunteer Village at the city campground
A group of boys enjoying Spearfish Creek right in back of our RV sites

Since we work 3 half days on duty / 3 days off) as volunteers at the hatchery, we have plenty of time to see the sights. Add to that the fact that one of our additional benefits of working here is that we are given VIP passes from the Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association.

This card gives us the opportunity to visit 50+ area attractions for free or deep discounted pricing. The purpose is to familiarize us volunteers with everything that the Black Hills & Badlands area has to offer and be eager to share the information about the attractions with visitors to the hatchery as we serve as tour guides in the venues here.

The list of free and discounted attractions offered by BH & Badlands Tourism Assoc

One of the first places we just had to check out when we got here was the City of Deadwood, just about 20 miles south of Spearfish. We also visited the City of Lead.

As you can see by the map below, the downtown areas are only about 3.5 miles apart … it’s like one larger community now but back in the day there was quite the rivalry between the towns … so much so that when the wealthy W.E. Adams at age 71 married his second wife of only 28 years, the gossip and shame cast upon him by other upstanding citizens of the community was NOT the fact that he was marrying a MUCH younger woman, but that he was from Deadwood and she was from Lead!

(The following was taken from blackhillsknowledgenetwork.org) ” Lead was founded in April 1876 by brothers Fred and Moses Manuel who had ventured out from the booming gold town of Deadwood in search of gold. The brothers discovered a promising vein of ore near current-day Lead. Such veins were called leads. The brothers staked their claim, built a mill and in the spring of 1876 mined $5,000 worth of gold from what would eventually become Homestake Gold Mine. “

Kathy wanted a coffee, so we stopped in to this cute little former gas station in Deadwood that now serves as a coffee shop and a glass-blowing studio! Customers can buy the finished product, or make their own at the direction of the owner.

After the coffee stop, we moved on to the Homestake Mine / Sanford Lab Visitor Center just down the road in Lead where we were treated to a trolley tour of the town and the history of the gold mine and the impact it had on the town. The mine was closed in 1983, but is being used today as a research facility at over 5000′ below ground level (under the open pit portion). When the mine was in operation, it had over 350 miles of tunnels down as deep at 8500 feet!

A Google Maps shot of the open pit mine at Homestake (over 1.5 miles wide)

They dug the open pit as deep as they could and ultimately started digging and blasting tunnels down as deep as 8500′ below ground level!

This was a fascinating tour and you can find out more about the history of the Homestake Mine and it’s impact on the area around towns of Lead and Deadwood along with the current neutrino research work going on underground at the 5000′ level by following this link.

While in Deadwood we toured the historic Adams House, the Adams Museum, the Days of ’76 Museum, the Homestake Opera House, and the Silverado Casino.

We drove to the top of Mount Roosevelt located just northwest of Deadwood in the Black Hills National Forest where we parked and then took a trail and walked up about 3/4 mile to the site of the “Friendship Tower” that was built by Teddy Roosevelt’s good friend Seth Bullock. We just happened to be there on the 100th anniversary of the completion of the tower July 4, 1919.

Built in memory of Teddy Roosevelt by his friend Seth Bullock
Sherry, Matt, Kathy, and me at the overlook on Mt Roosevelt

After Mount Roosevelt we drove on up to Mount Moriah – the highest point in Deadwood and the home to Deadwood Cemetery. We drove up through the narrow old streets to the parking lot, paid our $2 entry fee and then continued to climb up through the grounds stopping to look at well worn stone monuments of those early pioneers we didn’t know and we saw the burial spot of some of the more famous Black Hills pioneers as well.

Entrance to the Deadwood Cemetery on Mt. Moriah (Kathy, Sherry & Matt up ahead)
Looking over one of the hills of burial plots in the cemetery
Plaques memorializing Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane
The Burial Site and Grave Monument of Wild Bill Hickok
Calamity Jane’s Burial Site & Monument

Continuing our walk up the streets of the cemetery to the top, we then turned off to a trail that took us up another 750 feet to the burial site of Roosevelt’s good friend Seth Bullock. Seth wanted to be buried at this spot so that he could look across the valley to the Friendship Tower on the top of Mount Roosevelt. You can read all about Seth Bullock, his influence on Deadwood and the Black Hills along with his close friendship with Teddy Roosevelt by reading this Wikipedia article.

Our 750′ climb up from the top of the cemetery to Seth Bullocks burial site
Seth Bullock’s Grave Site
A lot of folks leave stones as a sign of remembrance and respect

There’s still much more to see and do in the Deadwood / Lead area and you can find out more by following this link.

We’re having a wonderful time volunteering here in the Black Hills at DC Booth Historic Fish Hatchery and we have a lot more to share with you. We’ll continue to send along updates as we visit new and interesting places in the area.

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.