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

Time To Hit The Road Again

It’s been just 3 weeks since my total hip replacement surgery and the rehab is coming along great! I was able to set the walker aside after about 3 or 4 days and every day is better than the day before. If you’re really interested (maybe you’re considering having the surgery) you can read more about my recovery here.

So now we are set to head out from our daughter’s driveway here in Mt. Gilead, OH next Friday August 20th.

We’ve replaced the recliner in the coach with a new one. It takes less floor space, swivels, rocks, and reclines fully and is so much more comfortable than the leather one that came with the coach originally.

We also just had the entire coach washed and waxed. Normally this is a job that I do. I wash it about 5 or 6 times a year and wax it at least yearly. But this time since I am still recovering from my hip surgery, we were fortunate to find a mobile RV detailing service that came to the house and took care of the whole job in about 5 or 6 hours.

We had originally planned on leaving Ohio in early August and taking our time heading to Oregon visiting friends and family along the way and eventually ending up in Garibaldi Oregon to meet up with others from our Escapees RV Club at the Oregon Coast Hangout.

But a few things have changed. We are now going to our niece’s wedding in Michigan and that will not be until August 21st. This means that the rest of our trip will be delayed and if we were to still plan on getting to Oregon by Sept 6th we’d have to skip some of our other planned stops along the way.

Although we were looking forward to meeting up with about 30 other rigs at the Oregon Coast Hangout and seeing a part of the country we’ve never been to before and making new friends, we feel it’s more important to take the trip easy and instead stop along the way to renew old friendships.

Our planned route west as of this date (Aug 12th)

We will start out on Friday August 20th and head up to Addison Oaks Campground in Michigan where we’ll stay for 2 nights while we attend our niece’s wedding and visit with family a bit.

We’ll next head a little west to spend a couple days with my sister and her husband. They live in Owosso, Michigan and while there we’ll be staying at the Shiawassee County Fairgrounds. Betsy and Bob have a beautiful home with plenty of room for us but if you’re a full-time RV’er you can appreciate how we might be more comfortable staying in our own “home on wheels” and then we can just take the car over to their place for the day.

Our third stop for the next two days will be in the Ludington Michigan area. We will be staying at another Harvest Hosts location. We will be in the driveway of a local woodworking artist shop nestled deep in the woods. During the day we will be visiting our friends at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park near Baldwin Michigan. We worked at PMO during the summers of 2017 and 2018. While there we’ll also hook up with a fellow high school graduate from 1972. I found out recently (on Facebook) that he and his wife just purchased a cottage on a lake just down the street from PMO. We’re also planning on spending some time with Kathy’s cousin Sue and husband Loren who live in the Traverse City are and who we haven’t seen in probably 20 years or more.

The next day will find us boarding the S.S. Badger car ferry and taking the 4 hour ride across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc Wisconsin where we’ll then meet up with our good friends Forrest and Mary who we know as our neighbors when we stay in Arizona at Rovers Roost. They are currently in Wisconsin visiting friends and family as well. We will spend the night at the Elks Lodge in Manitowoc.

Our next stop will be Forest City, Iowa. Forest City is the home of Winnebago Industries. Winnebago is one of the oldest camping trailer and motorhome manufacturers in the U.S. Paul and Chris, who we met while workamping in Livingston Texas in 2016 and have met up elsewhere in the country several times since then. Paul and Chris are in the process of selling the family farm and transitioning to full-time RV living and they’ll be at Winnebago Customer Service getting a few things done to their 40′ motorhome, so what better time for us to stop for a visit. Maybe we’ll get a factory tour while we’re there!

Ron, Kathy, and me posing for the camera

After spending a couple nights at Forest City, we’ll take a little detour off our “head west” trip and move on down to Holden Missouri, just southeast of Kansas City. Holden is the home of our friend Carl who is also a full-time RV’er and who we met on our Mexico caravan trip last winter. The three of us spent a lot of time together during that trip and really enjoyed each other’s company. Carl told us about the Miller Mausoleum that his grandfather had built and he had now inherited. An interesting story so we’re going to visit Carl, tour the historic mausoleum, and while we’re in the area we will also drive to Kansas City and spend a little time with friends Ron and Judy who we worked with at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in 2018.

After our time at Holden and KC, we’ll start heading back up through Omaha and Sioux Falls to get to Spearfish SD by about Sept 5th or so. Our good friends Matt and Sherry are working once again at DC Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery (where we worked with them in 2019) and we want to spend a couple days with them before they have to leave and head out to Louisiana and Florida for the winter where they’ll be volunteering at Barberville Pioneer Settlement.

That’ll get us through Labor Day at which point we will still have nearly two months before we want to get back to our RV lot at Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande Arizona by November 1st.

We have been in touch with our friends David and Sue (also neighbors at the Roost) who are currently volunteering at Custer State Park. Their gig will come to an end October 1st so it may be that we will caravan (only 2 rigs) around Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada before getting back to Arizona.

Who knows … we’ll just play it as we feel like it as time goes on. We don’t have to be anywhere before November 1st and if we get somewhere and decide we really like the area, then we’ll stay a while longer. If we don’t care for where we’re at, we can turn the key and head down the road a little further.

Until next time … take care of yourselves (and each other) – Be safe and we look forward to updating you a little later down the pike.

Herb & Kathy

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.

Just a little hike

Once we kind of found our way around the county (grocery store etc.), we decided to do a little more roaming within the park.

Today was a short hike up to Eagles Point.  From here you can see a large portion of the lake, some of the islands (including trooper island), and on over to Tennessee.

Although the trail (from the Marina overflow parking lot) is only 7/10ths of a mile, much of it was uphill and my hip and knee were both crying out to me along the way. We heard a lot of little critters among the leaves in the woods as we climbed up to Eagle’s Point, but all we saw was a black snake along the way.

Once we got to the top, it became clear that the climb was worth the trip. We could see clearly (even though it was an overcast day) over to the lodge, to Troopers Island, and on across the lake to Tennessee.

Trooper Island is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and leased by the Kentucky State Police where they operate a camp for underprivileged children. Find out more about their mission by following this link.

I’ve been afraid of heights ever since I can remember. A 6′ stepladder is about as high as I can comfortably go. Kathy on the other hand …. is comfortable going right to the edge (as you can see in one of the pictures below)

Panoramic view from the top (Trooper Island in the distance)
Video from the top

That’s it for now … we have very limited wifi here. I have to come up to the lodge to get any reliable wifi.

Stay safe … Herb & Kathy

What’s our engine thinking?

Well, we all have gauges of some sort on our vehicle that tell us the REALLY important things like “You’re Outta Gas!” or “I’m getting too hot!“, but there’s a lot more information that all our newer (since 1996 or so) vehicles have that can be extracted from the on board computer (known as the Engine Control Module) and, if you have the right device, then display that data on a screen so the driver can see and monitor the engine load and performance. On diesel trucks and motorhomes, this data is sent by the ECM to a “Deutsch” connector. On pick-up trucks and passenger cars they use an OBDII (On-Board Diagnostic) connector.

One such device for diesel engines in Motorhomes is BLUEFIRE FOR MOTORHOMES.

I discovered this device and it’s associated app while visiting the Quartzsite “Big Tent” RV show in January of 2019. Their display of the user interface caught my eye and so I went over and talked to Mark Fredrickson who, as it turns out is the developer of both the plug-in adapter and the free app available for Apple, Android devices and Windows 10 computers.

This device (called the adapter) plugs into your diesel vehicle Deutsch Connector. In our case, there is a round 6-pin Deutsch connector mounted just inside the rear “hood” of our coach just over the top of the radiator (labeled Diagnostics). There is another duplicate connector mounted under the dash. These are the connectors that the mechanic would use for diagnostic purposes.

This is what our (6 pin) adapter looks like

The really sweet thing about Bluefire for Motorhomes is that the adapter is BLUETOOTH which means the adapter talks to your phone/tablet/laptop wirelessly and this means that you don’t have to deal with any unsightly wires coming out from under the dash AND you don’t need to provide any power to the adapter since it gets it’s own power from the Deutsch connector.

The BlueFire for Motorhomes App is free and can be downloaded and installed from Apple Tunes, Google Play, or the Microsoft App Stores. It will run completely in Demo mode so you can get a feel for it’s capabilities before purchasing an Adapter.

The cost of the adapter starts at $150.00 (for a 6 pin Android/Windows adapter) up to $190.00 for the 9 pin (newer motorhomes) Android/Windows/Apple adapter. You will need to look at your Deutsch connector to see if it’s 6 or 9 pin and also decide what platform you are going to run it on (Apple/Android/Microsoft).

If you need to use Bluefire on a pickup truck or other vehicle with an OBDII connector, then order the appropriate adapter from the link in the box below.

Since our motorhome is a 2002 Airstream on a Freightliner chassis with a CAT 3126 engine and a 6 pin Deutsch, we were able to purchase our adapter for $150.00

Since the app is FREE, I urge you to download the app and play with it in DEMO mode. This will allow you to learn about all the various settings and learn about how you might want your “dashboard” to look like. To use the app in DEMO mode, from the main menu (or control panel) click on SETTINGS & then UN-check DO NOT SHOW DEFAULT DATA.

Your custom dashboard is completely customize-able. You select which gauges you want displayed, what style the gauge will be (circular, text, or linear), what colors you want, and all gauge placement. Here’s a shot of how I set up my dash for our motorhome.

My Bluefire dash on my Galaxy 8″ tablet (in demo mode)

You can see that I have 8 circular gauges, 8 text gauges, and 3 buttons on my dash. And I still have room on the screen to add more. I can even place a dynamic map on the dashboard that works off the GPS.

This is the tablet I’m using for Bluefire. My laptop was too big. I would have to set it on the dash and then I couldn’t reach it from the driving position. My Android phone is too small and it mounts on a long flexible neck that tends to bounce around during travel. This would make it too had to view the gauges, so the 8′ tablet was the way to go for me.

Here’s the base that I bought to mount the tablet. I screwed the mount right into the dash just to the left of the back-up monitor left of the steering wheel. It’s a very solid mount and does not allow the tablet to jiggle or bounce around as you travel down the road.

In the screenshots below you will see just how many parameters there are that the ECM sends to Bluefire and you can make gauges on your custom dashboard displaying ANY of these parameters.

Be aware that not ALL motorhomes ECM’s will transmit ALL of these parameters. My coach is an older (2002) and there are a few pieces of data that just don’t come across (like coolant LEVEL) because my coach doesn’t have a sensor that feeds into the ECM for that.

I DO however have a LOW WATER light and buzzer on the Freightliner dash that warns me … which by the way I found DOES work as we were climbing a steep hill, the coolant in the reservoir shifted to the back thereby exposing the sensor and setting off our LOW WATER alarm!

It’s very easy to operate. Here’s how I turn it on and start to use the system.

Turn on my tablet, enable Bluetooth and open the Bluefire app. I have my settings set to NOT bring up default values when not connected (ignition off). Start the engine. Push CONNECT on the app control panel. Push “TRIPS” on app control panel and enter the name of my trip that I’m starting. Push START TRIP. Push one of 3 buttons on Control Panel (either DASHBOARD, DRIVE, or REPAIR) to view graphical data being sent from the ECM.

DRIVE and REPAIR each have multiple screens (you can scroll up and down) that show you every possible parameter that your ECM might be sending to the adapter.

Using the TRIP function all the driver has to do is start and connect the app to the adapter, enter the name of the trip, (i.e. Chicago to St. Louis) and then push START TRIP. The app and the ECM do the rest of the work. When you stop for fuel, push FUEL FILL-UP – the app will ask you if it’s a total or partial fill. At the end of the trip push STOP TRIP and you’ll see the results on-screen and a report will be emailed in a csv spreadsheet format. The spreadsheet is amended with another ROW after each trip so all your trip(s) data is automatically saved in a nice compact format for easy retrieval at any time in the future.

Screen shot of the TRIP screen.

Here is the link to purchase the Bluefire For Motorhomes Adapter from our Amazon Associates Page. If you order from Amazon (through this link) or the BUY NOW button below, then we will be paid a small fee from Amazon and the purchase doesn’t cost you any more.

Here’s a link to their Getting Started Document that’s 23 pages long and really explains a lot. I don’t think this document was available when I started using Bluefire or maybe I just never saw it — I learned by experimenting.

For a quick look at some of the App pages follow this link to the Bluefire web site.

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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.

Bodie California (Ghost Town)

While working with our new friends at the National Elk Refuge, we learned from some of them about Bodie State Historical Park just north of Yosemite National Park. Listening to them describe this place convinced us it was something that we just HAD to see when we were in the area.

To give you an idea of where Bodie is located

The park is a real ghost town. When I say “real” it’s because although it is a tourist attraction, it’s not like so many other tourist “traps” that are commercialized and always pushing their trinkets, snacks, and other junk on you.

Bodie State Historical Park sits about 15 miles east of U.S. 395 on State Rt 270 and be advised that we do NOT RECOMMEND taking this road with your RV because most of the route is dirt and in pretty rough shape. You don’t need a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but you really do not want to subject your RV (and it’s contents) to the shake, rattle and roll they’d get traveling this dirt road.

Commemorative Plaque

As the plaque above explains, Bodie was a gold mining town. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from the park web site;

Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. The town is named for Waterman S. Body (William Bodey), who had discovered small amounts of gold in hills north of Mono Lake. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed pay dirt, which led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. People flocked to Bodie and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a boomtown.

Only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.

It was really eerie walking the streets and seeing the many buildings that remain. We were told by park rangers that the empty spaces between buildings actually used to be occupied by buildings as well. This was a pretty large town in it’s day!

As always, clicking on any of the thumbnails below will open the larger image.

A few people continued to live in Bodie until after World War II, when the last producing, mine, the Lucky Boy was shut down.

By then only six people were left in the old settlement and five of these would soon die untimely deaths. First, one of the men shot his wife and after she died, three men killed the murdering husband. According to legend, the ghost of the murdered man would visit the three men, shaking his fist. Soon, all three would die of strange diseases.

By the end of the 1940s, Bodie was a ghost town and was visited only by tourists interested in its history.

In 1962, after years of neglect, Bodie became a State Historic Park, and two years later the ghost town of Bodie was dedicated as a California Historic Site. It has also been designated a National Historic Site.

A few of the buildings have white window shades or drapes in them and we learned that those buildings are actually residences for state park rangers and other staff. What an interesting place this would be on a moonlit night, eh?

If you know of anyone planning on visiting Yosemite National Park, be sure to tell them about Bodie Historical State Park just north of Lee Vining California.

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.

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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Is It The Places or The People ?

We are closing in on finishing up our 3rd year of living the full-time RV lifestyle.

The road has been a good one to us. Not that it’s been all fun, frolic, and laughs but it has brought us closer together – not only physically but emotionally as well.

Kathy and I just celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary with an Amtrak trip to Glacier National Park. During our lifetime together, a lot of that time was “alone” time. In one of my early career positions I was gone “on the road” nearly every weekday, sleeping in motels Sunday through Thursday nights somewhere in my multi-state territory.

Even when I was at home, my time was consumed with working on the “work” business from home involved in conference calls and drafting of sales proposal letters along with being active in the only real hobby I ever had … local ham radio clubs and events.

Me in my ham radio “shack” in the early ’80’s

Kathy had a handful of different jobs over the years (most importantly raising the kids and keeping the house together) with most of the time working in the school system so she could be off work and at home when the kids were at home. We were fortunate because with her job schedule we didn’t need to hire child care.

But now our lives are a polar opposite of that earlier time. We are together ALL THE TIME. We travel side by side, we share meals, we do the mundane tasks of grocery shopping, house cleaning and laundry together, and we sleep next to each other. I think we have both come to appreciate each other far more than earlier in our marriage. We’ve always had a lot of mutual love and respect for each other – rarely raising our voices to the other. But before … we had other things to occupy our time. If we felt the urge for some “space”, we could easily separate ourselves from the other. Now on the other hand – it’s not so easy. After all, we live in a 300 sf box with a little bit of green space around us.

Our three years together in our “Green Machine” Airstream motorhome has given us the luxury at this stage in our lives of … in a way … becoming one.

45 years and still “Livin’ & Lovin'”

When we started this lifestyle three years ago, we realized that in order to travel from place to place and enjoy the local life, we needed to have some assistance with the household budget. We sold our house, paid off what little remaining debt we had and decided we would live off our social security income and a small pension Kathy had from working at the school system. We decided we would keep the retirement nest egg (IRA’s, investments) alone for future use when (if) we get off the road. Oh sure, it’ll happen sometime. We will either run out of good health or run out of our love for the road, but by leaving our investments alone so they can continue to grow, at least we won’t HAVE to come off the road because we’ve run out of money.

Although I had no employer monthly pension income (I was self employed the last 20 years) we had purchased an annuity years ago that could now provide a supplement to our Social Security along with Kathy’s small pension.

Yes we could “make it” on those income sources alone, it was going to be tight. We’d have to always be scrutinizing the budget each month and we’d have little room if any for any emergency expense or extravagance.

Somewhere, somehow … we discovered Workamping/Hosting/Volunteering and the opportunities it can provide. These experiences have given us the opportunity to travel and have rent-free sites and utilities. In addition, these opportunities have given us something else that we never really expected … new and lasting friendships.

Workamping/Camp Hosting/Volunteering opportunities are generally long-term commitments. What I mean by that is that most often (but not always) your “employer” would like to have their “staff” on board for the season or even year-round.

Starting out, our first gig was 6 months long – the winter season in Arizona.

Kathy at the registration desk at Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde, AZ

Although our owner/managers (George & Sigrid) were wonderful to us, treated us so well – like family … we ultimately decided when making arrangements for future opportunities we would look for more “short term” commitments. We’ve since been working one-month to 3-month gigs.

This way we can continue to travel around the country and have more new experiences and make more new and lasting friendships. If we worked for 6 months in each location, we’d be 130 years old and still not have completed our Bucket List!

Here’s a U.S. map showing where we’ve AT LEAST stayed overnight in the last three years. You can see we’ve still got a long way to go … we need to spend more time along both the east and west coasts.

Oh yeah, earlier I mentioned this part about friendships but then I got off track – excuse me. We have discovered that working (volunteering) as we travel allows us to meet, get to know, and build lasting relationships with lots of wonderful people from all over the country.

Right now as an example, we are acting as tour guides at DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota (Black Hills and Badlands area)

There are 10 couples here, all living in our rigs side-by-side in Volunteer Village at the Spearfish City Campground right across the street from the hatchery.

We work side-by-side, share most nights of the week around the campfire cooking smores and enjoying each other’s stories and even have monthly pot luck meals along with weekly free music festivals in the city park just a few hundred feet away.

One of our pot luck meals at Volunteer Village
Brooksie entertaining us with one of her stories while Matt prepares his Smore
Enjoying one of the weekly free “Canyon Accoustics” concerts
Sometimes it’s a smaller group out to share a meal together

When we have to say goodbye and hit the road again, we stay in touch with our new friends as we travel using both Facebook (groups) and a Facebook-like app made just for RV’ers called RVillage.com. Both of these are great resources to keep up with our buddies and see what their next adventure is and maybe where we might apply to work/volunteer in the future.

We’ve already had at least a dozen experiences over the last three years where we have volunteered with folks in say, Livingston Texas and met up with them again in Burlington Vermont or Ludington Michigan (or somewhere like that). Sometimes it’s planned, but more often it’s serendipitous!

But what about our family and “old” friends? Do we miss our kids and grandchildren? You bet! It would be great if we could do what we are doing AND fly back home to Ohio at least once or twice a year to spend time with the family. But, fact is we just can’t afford to that. Life is often about sacrifices (and opportunities!)

It really depends on where we are working and how long the commitment is and where the next commitment will be. We don’t plan our work locations based on traveling back home once or twice each year. We plan our work locations on where we have NOT been, what we might like to see, and how appealing the location and job description/compensation package is.

We were last in Ohio April of 2018 for a month and we will be back there summer of 2020 so we’ll have plenty of time to catch up. The photos below of the kids, grand-kids, in-laws and old neighbors might be a couple or a few years old, but they’re some of our favorites.

And of course, we post LOTS of info and pictures on Facebook, videos on You Tube and posts here on the blog for family and friends to see what we’re up to.

So yes, it’s great to travel the country and see all the great exciting new places, but we’ve found that the wonderful personal relationships we’ve developed with all our new friends as we travel and volunteer are the larger perk of the RV lifestyle that we embrace.

If you are interested in finding out more about our Workamping and volunteering experiences, just scroll on up to the top right hand side of this post and enter either “volunteer” or “workamp” in the search box and hit “enter”.

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.

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

Great Time at Escapade ’19

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

Aerial View of The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds

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

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

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

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