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.

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.

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

Just A Sleepy Little Town

After our three days and nights at the Sweetwater Events Center (fair grounds @ Rock Springs Wyoming) we made our way further east on I-80 and then up U.S. 287 through Muddy Gap and around Casper, then up I-25 to Powder River Campgrounds at Kaycee, Wyoming.

Honestly, the only reason we went to Kaycee was because the camping was cheap, it would be a full hook-up site, and they had a laundry. We are members of Passport America and the PA web site showed Kaycee as the closest member park and as a result we are able to stay for $20/night which is 1/2 the normal non-member rate of $40 nightly.

There was one other camper there, but we never saw any occupants

We were cheerily welcomed by the on-site park manager Deneene and she welcomed us to the area, gave us a full hook-up pull-through site and proceeded to tell us a little about the town and especially the Bronc Riding School that would be happening the next two days across the street at the local fair grounds.

Turns out that Kaycee is famous for producing professional rodeo stars – over a dozen have come from this sleepy little town to go on to earn their living as professional national rodeo stars.

Here’s an excerpt from a local paper explaining the phenomenon;

The following is an excerpt from PATRICK SCHMIEDT Star-Tribune staff writer Jul 13, 2006

Blend a supportive community, a heavy dose of history and a simple case of boredom, and it shouldn’t have been too surprising to see five Kaycee competitors in Wednesday’s performance at the Central Wyoming Rodeo.

The small town of about 250 people an hour north of Casper has produced more successful cowboys than most towns 100 times its size. But none of the five competitors in Wednesday’s performance has completely figured out why.

Morgan Forbes, a 23-year-old saddle bronc rider looking for a return trip to the National Finals Rodeo, attributes the success of Kaycee cowboys, in part, to boredom.

“There’s not much else to do out in Kaycee,” he said.

As for Jeremy Ivie, who, at 29, moved to Kaycee five years ago from Duchesne, Utah, it’s all the “old guys” in town who help foster rodeo success. After all, the names of rodeo families in and around the town are familiar in rodeo circles: Forbes. Graves. LeDoux. Sandvick. Scolari. Shepperson. Orchard. Jarrard. Latham.

Dusty Orchard, a 25-year-old bull rider, said the town is a “coffee shop,” where the residents applaud when a hometown cowboy does well and offer a twinkle-eyed razzing when there is more disappointment than success.

Or, as Orchard suggested, it may be because Kaycee doesn’t have a football team to rally behind. Instead, the community rallies around rodeo.

Actually, it’s a combination of those ingredients that blend the perfect atmosphere for the sport, an atmosphere that has helped to produce about a dozen competitors – around five percent of the town’s residents – solid enough to maintain current careers on the professional rodeo circuit.

“If you want to rodeo, it’s the greatest place in the world to grow up,” said saddle bronc rider Sandy Forbes, Morgan’s older brother. ” … It’s just what we do.”

“If you’re wanting to be somewhere that supports rodeo, that’s the town,” she said.

We decided to stay another night and that afternoon after the Bronc School an Airstream trailer pulled in next to us and we met Angie and Bunny who were traveling to Yellowstone (to work) from Indiana. We enjoyed a nice chicken dinner with them that night at a local restaurant.

It was a real treat for these two city-slickers lemme tell ‘ya. We got to see a “stampede” of a hundred horses go by us on the bridge that we could’ve reached out and touched. Add to that watching these young kids get bucked off the broncs as their seniors trained them to ride ’em.

Check out the video below for the full story.

Thanks for riding along. We appreciate that you stop to take the time to read and come along with us on our adventure. Please leave a comment or two down the page in the comments section – What do you think of these kids being bucked off the horse?

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