So Just What Is Fort Peck?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we came to show up here ..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fort Peck T-Rex in the Interpretive Center

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

10 minute video on the Downstream Campground – Fort Peck Montana

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

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

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

How Do They Make Those?

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

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

Quick trip out I-8 to the museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Great Time in Quartzsite (Mostly)

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

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

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

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

It’s a boom town in the winter

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

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

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

Replacing the tire in the rain and mud of the desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magnificent Saguaro Cactus

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

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

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

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

A healthy Saguaro about 40′ tall in the National Forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Great Climb .. er, Drive up the Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the restaurants in Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon

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

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

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

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

The parking area with Border Patrol vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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