Reconnecting

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We arrived at what we lovingly refer to as “The Baker Resort”, at the end of September. I am still amazed every time I walk up the driveway that Bob was able to get the bus in through all the trees. Lisa, Bob’s sister, and Brad, her husband, cut down A LOT of trees at the beginning of the driveway in order for us to get the bus in. It only took him one shot to get it into place. Mad skills he has!!!

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Their home is located on a remote country road in an historic area of South Carolina and the acreage is filled with lush plantings and hundreds of trees. Lisa has been a Master Gardener for her county extension for years and it shows. It is a beautiful comfortable home, inside and out, that they have made for themselves.

I spend my early mornings on quiet peaceful walks through the nearby cotton fields and Bob is getting caught up with chores around the bus. With Brads massive and fully equipped workshop/man cave, he is enjoying having a place to tinker. The temps have been in the low 90’s the last couple of weeks so of course we have taken advantage of the pool most afternoons. It has been very easy to come off the road and get used to this “resort” living. We plan on spending the majority of Fall here, until the temps get to low for us to comfortably stay out in the motorhome.

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”Baker Resort” kidding aside, here is the REAL reason why we are enjoying being here so much.

In the summer of 1976 we were living at the Coast Guard station on Folly Beach, SC, just outside Charleston. Bob was newly home from being stationed for an isolated year in the middle of the Pacific - Marshall Islands/ Enewetak. That summer we asked his parents if the kids - Lisa (15) and younger brother Ralph (11) could come up for a few weeks’ vacation. They sent them from Miami on the train and we had weeks of lounging on the beach, working on surfing skills, playing pool, and just generally being a family that loved to hang out with each other. The next year our lives took us West, first to Hawaii and then eventually to Nevada where we spent the last 35 years until we hit the road in 2016. There were mini-visits where we would come home to Florida or Georgia, and times when Lisa and Brad made it out west, but they were always limited to days…not weeks.

Fast forward 40 YEARS and we now have time. The time - to just relax with each other. This is the longest period of time that they have had together since that long-ago summer, and as is so often the case - if you are lucky, it is as though no time has passed. They still tease each other, they find comfort in just sitting for hours in each other’s company with no need for words, and their laughter is infectious as they remember pranks from the past.


We are off to Boston in a couple days, spend some time with my Aunt Sue, reconnect with a friend that was stationed with us in Hawaii 40 years ago, and meet up with our good friends Melissa and Tim from Susanville, CA. It will be a packed two weeks of hustle and bustle. But then we will return….to The Resort on Brattonsville road, and reconnect and relax some more.

I can’t wait.

Time for an Update

An updated vehicle that is. We finally bit the bullet and got a new car. The 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee that we have been cruising around in has been a great ride, but with more miles planned going down the highway this next year we thought it was time to go with something a little more dependable. What did we decide? Another JEEP of course. We still want to be able to hit the backroads, climb some rocks and have many adventures off the beaten path.

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NOW BOB’S WORK BEGINS - AGAIN

This will be the 3rd time he has had to install a tow plate on the front of a vehicle. Unfortunately every car we have towed, the original TJ, then the Cherokee, and now the new JK requires a different set-up.

First things first, we needed an organizer for the back. Usually we just kind of stack everything around in the cargo area, but Bob found this one so we are going to give it a try. It is a SUNPIE Roll Bar Storage Bag Cage Multi-Pockets & Organizers & Cargo Bag Saddlebag Tool Kits Holder. We will have to see if it can help keep us a little more organized, AND keep things from flying all around when we are in some rough places.

We also need to add on a trailer hitch to hold our bike rack. The rack we have now is a swing away and a good one. It holds the boys bikes when they are with us, so we would like to keep it if possible. Our Cherokee did not have the spare tire on the outside like this JK does though, so we may end up having to get the rack that fits onto the spare tire if this doesn’t work.

The next couple things are going to be a little more time consuming and difficult. Lucky for Bob though, we are parked in Lisa and Brad’s driveway so he will have much more access to tools and a comfortable area to do the work. Last time he had to add the braking system to the Cherokee he was working on a piece of carpet in the dirt outside the motorhome in Sedona.

Because we tow our car behind the motorhome we need a braking system….RIGHT??

The one he is going to install is the same brand that we have now, but you have to put a new plate, specific to that year and model vehicle to the underside. We also need the wiring kit that allows the brakes and turn signals from the motorhome to show up on the jeep while it is being towed. We have all these ordered, and I will update this blog post after Bob gets them installed.

 

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Long Road East

We left Wyoming on a big white puffy cloud day. I had taken my last trip around the lake the evening before and already I was longing for the day we would return to this little corner of the world in the Bighorns.

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Thus began our long trek to the east coast where we will rendezvous with friends and family over the next few months. Our first stop though was in Box Elder SD, just outside Rapid City. A long day for us at about 325 miles, we made it in time to pick up our mail from the service we use, Americas Mailbox, and then we settled in for the night at a nearby brand new Cabela’s. After Bob did an extensive journey through the store we set our chairs up outside the bus and a beautiful sunset developed in front of our eyes.

Next morning it was off to Pickstown, SD where we would finally have a reunion with Bob’s “Brother from another Mother”, Neil. It had been a long five years since we had seen him at Bob’s retirement party and we missed him….a LOT!

250+ miles later we were pulling up to the Corp of Engineers Dam project where he works and started to set up at the campground nearby to wait for him to get off work.

Look at those grins, this is another one of the big reasons why we travel,
to have this time with the ones we miss and love.

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Our campsite was peaceful and quiet, right on the Missouri River overlooking the dam where Neil worked. Located within the rolling plain of the Missouri Plateau, the Fort Randall dam project was completed in 1956 and sits not far from the site of the original Fort Randall that was used as an outpost in the mid 1800’s. All the buildings had been moved or destroyed long ago, but we walked through the remainder of the forts graveyard, and gazed out over the Missouri River wondering what it must have been like to live there at that point in history.

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Also known as home to one of America's largest wintering concentrations of bald and golden eagles, Neil took us on a side trip in search of some. We found a pair of goldens nesting in the trees right by our campsite, and watched them soar at an area across the river. Such a beautiful site to see.

Was a great weekend. We ate and drank just enough and laughed around the campfire at night. It was a beautiful way to start this trek east and we just hope it’s not five years before we see Neil again.

Notes for next time: https://gfp.sd.gov/parks/detail/randall-creek-recreation-area/
https://gfp.sd.gov/userdocs/campground-map-randall.pdf we stayed in space#19, but any and all along the river would be nice.


Bighorn Mountains

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We left Prune Creek and made our way a few miles down the road to Sibley Lake. Another Forest Service campground, this time instead of the sound of gentle flowing water from the creek, we had a beautiful alpine lake to hike around and nordic ski trails to follow up into the mountains.  At almost 3 miles to cover the perimeter of lake, my daily walk took me through little inlets filled with head high willows. I stopped and listen every 100 yards or so to make sure there are no moose sleeping or grazing. I have only seen a few signs. Their massive footprints in the deep mud and skat laying on the trail. After our experience at Prune Creek I am always on the lookout for signs of recent activity.

The water is deep blue, and so shallow near the edge that you can see the tiny fish glistening in the sun. There are signs of beavers everywhere - you can’t go 10 feet without seeing a tree that has been gnawed through and left to fall into the water. No signs of a dam anywhere. There is a beautiful dock they have built on the southern perimeter of the lake that extends for hundreds of feet. Set up for fishing, benches and overhangs with holes to hold the rods and carved every few inches with names, dates and promises of everlasting love. 

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The weather has been beautiful and cool, and even brought us a surprise snow shower one morning, in August!  At 8500 ft, the local host at the campground told us that it is not unusual to have snow every month of the year in the Bighorns. 

We have filled our days wandering around the countryside checking out hikes and looking for wildlife. One day we spent on the road to Shell Falls and Dinosaur Tracks. While the tracks were not as impressive, to us, as the ones we saw outside Escalante in Utah, it was a beautiful drive and the wildlife on the hillsides were abundant. 

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We stopped at a local tavern in Shell, pop. 88, just because their hand carved sign was calling us, and Bob realized after we were sitting outside having a cold beer that he had been through here before on one of his motorcycle journeys with the boys. Small world, and sometimes on the bike I think so much of it goes by really...really fast. 

We have been back to Prune Creek in search of moose a few times, but have not seen any. I am just so thankful that we were fortunate to have the "Moose Experience" while we were there. Such massive creatures, Bob is great as my  lookout as I tried to get closer to get a good shot. Perhaps it is time to get a larger lens. 

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We have mule deer right in the campground, and of course scores of chipmunks that love to hop up on the table and see if Bob left them any treats. 

When not hiking or exploring, our days are spent just hanging around camp reading.

The only thing we could possibly find as a negative in this whole area has been the lack of "connectivity" to the outside world.

The only thing we could possibly find as a positive in this whole area has been the lack of "connectivity" to the outside world.  

Next year I will have my kayak with me. I will float out into the middle of the lake and gaze at the Bighorn mountains off in the distance. I can't think of a prettier place to be in August, then here in Wyoming. 
 

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 The view across the valley from the Dinosaure Tracks. 

The view across the valley from the Dinosaure Tracks. 

Moose......moose.....everywhere are MOOSE!

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They are SO MASSIVE, intimidating and BEAUTIFUL! Last year when we were camping at this same area we were able to see a few cows (female moose) as they wandered around through the willows by the campground. This year there was a larger group of females, a few with calves, but it wasn't until the end of our second week here that we saw our first, and only BULL! 

He was magnificent, scary and regal all wrapped up into one gorgeous animal. When we first saw him, we didn't see that he also had a cow and a calf with him. Numerous times we had been told to be very aware around the females if they had a calf. Known to charge at you if they feel even the slight bit threatened, we had been keeping our distance all week and I was usually on the other side of the big creek when I was shooting them. 

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Once we spotted him, I quickly ran back to the bus to get my bigger lens and fortunately he didn't move while I was gone. I quietly crept through the tall grass to try and get a little closer to where we had seen him laying down from our vantage point on the hill above him. When I got down level with him I made my way slowly through the tall willows, creeping from pine tree to pine tree, to get a little closer to him. That was when Bob saw the cow and calf grazing about 25 ft. from him. He had his eye on them....and then all of sudden...he had his eye on ME!

I slowly backed up and got behind a large tree as he rose up in all his glory and started walking right towards me. By then I was backpedaling pretty quickly, trying not to fall into one of the hundreds of holes that the beavers or gophers had made by the side of the creek. 

Over the next hour and a half we followed him, and his family, along the creek bed until another group of people driving by spotted him and tried to get a little to close. They crossed the big creek together and made their way into the willows. We didn't see him again. 

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Mossyrock

Vibrant colors in the shades of a spectacular sunset greet me as I step out of the car and head for the front door.......

One of the fringe benefits of continuing to do marketing and website work for the best garden center in Northern California, Every Bloomin’ Thing, is that it gives me a reason to visit out of the way nurseries along our travels. Now most that know me realize that I don’t need a reason, but it does come in handy when Bob is with me in the car. “Oh look, that place looks pretty awesome!”, always trying to say it in plenty of time that he can get out of traffic and pull over. Wise man that he is, he usually keeps a book or his iPad in the car. As long as there is some shade to park under, he is happy as a clam whiling away reading or searching social media.

We had decided to take a drive into Mossyrock, a small town about 15 miles from where we were camped, after passing through it on our way to Mt. Rainier a few days before. Located on a beautiful lake with streams and rivers running through it we actually wanted to look into some property in the area. We had just come from a stop at Aldrich Berry Farm, where to our amazement we picked up 5 lbs. of FRESH picked blueberries for about $10.00. Plump and juicy, we ate the first ½ lb before we made it a half mile down the road. Visions of smoothies, yogurt topping and pie filling filled my head. 

The road out of Aldrich's took us by fields upon fields, acres upon acres, of daylilies in every color of the rainbow. You could tell the plants were young, with only a few leaves and flowers on each plant, but obviously this was a high scale production nursery for lilies. We came around another corner, still looking for the way back to Hwy 12 when the sign for DeGoede’s Bulb Farm & Garden appeared. Luckily this was one of those times when no traffic / no obstacles and a wide-open parking lot were right in front of us. Bob turns and says “I suppose you want to stop?” He is a wise man, isn’t he?

Vibrant colors in the shades of a spectacular desert sunset greet me as I step out of the car and head for the front door. I told Bob I didn’t think I would be long as it didn’t look to be too large of a retail establishment, but he just smiled. I surveyed the front displays and took a few pictures of flowers that I knew I could use for EBT’s FB posts and then I ventured inside. It wasn’t a large area but it was filled with a beautiful variety of most all of the plants that grow in the NW part of Washington. A lot of the same perennials and shrubs that we used to showcase at The Flower Tree, our nursery in Fallon, but also quite a few that I hadn’t seen before. I had a chat with the woman behind the counter and asked her about the acres and acres of plants I had seen outside. Turns out that DeGoede’s is one of the largest growers of daylilies, tulips and other tubulars in the NW area. I only wish that I could be here in the spring when the acres are filled with blooming tulips.

We talked for a bit about the varieties available and then I set out for the shrub area. I was walking through the pathways when I overheard another couple say “Did you ask her which way the display gardens were?” My ears perked up, “display gardens”, I am on it. Went back in and asked her about it and she says “Oh yes, right out the door and to the right – just follow the signs.”

It was about two minutes later when I rounded the corner and saw what was in store that I texted Bob and said, “hope you don’t mind – I am going to be a little while.” He didn’t of course, and the next hour I spent wandering through the winding pathways of the gardens, picking out my favorites, photographing ones that I thought I could use in future website posts, and just plain enjoying my morning. I thought of texting Bob, “Come in, you will love this!”, but really….he wouldn’t. Not like I do….and that’s why we are still married. His joy comes from facilitating me to do what I love and vise versa. More on this next week – “Bob’s Adventure”.
 

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The Big 500!

We keep track of pretty much everything on the road. Our favorite boondock spots, best swimming holes and restaurants. The money we spend of course, or we wouldn't be able to do this, the miles that we travel - and yes the days we have been on the road. This last week we surpassed the BIG 500! I think I can safely say that we have now found a "lifestyle", and we are not just on an extended vacation.

We know we are fortunate. To not only be able to experience this country at such a slow pace, but to also be able to bring the grandsons a couple times a year on the journey with us. To have our health and the physical ability to go about our days in the way we want.

This lifestyle is not for everyone, at least the way we have adapted it to us. But adapted we have...and I can only hope that the next 500 days will be filled with many more of the adventures we have come to love.

Day 268 - Still loving it

This Life We Live

We are camped outside Cottonwood, AZ for the next few weeks. A 20 minute or so drive northeast to the red rock hiking haven of Sedona, and about 45 minutes from the peaceful forests of Prescott to the southwest. It suits us well. This is our sixth extended visit to the area, and it gets more comfortable every time we arrive. As they say, “Home is where we park it”.

Over the last few weeks we seem to have run into more people that ask “where are you from?” Our answers range from “wherever our house is” to “we are nomads” and sometimes we just give them a big smile and say “wherever our hearts take us”.  We see the look of confusion wash over the face, and then the "aha" moment. "Oh you mean you live in a RV?"  Some people have A LOT of questions, and others like to also share their experiences. We do get the occasional glance that can only mean - "gee, I feel sorry for you, you are homeless."  

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We follow the weather, in search of 80’ days and 40’ nights. North and south, east and west, we travel along staying a few days or a few weeks – just depends on how much we find to our liking in the area.

We realize that this life isn’t for everyone. We live frugally, but not poorly. We take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically….and we take care of each other. Day 268 of what we hope will end up to be in the 1000’s.

Sycamore Canyon

Sycamore canyon is second only in size to the Grand Canyon in the red rock country of Arizona. Stretching from Cottonwood to Williams it is only accessed by horseback or foot. The trail starts with a steep 200' stair step descent into the canyon. Once you arrive at the bottom it follows a lovely tree lined path along the spring fed creek. Sycamore and oaks trees mix with the colorful cliffs and towering pinnacles. 

We had attempted to do this trail back in the spring of this year, but at the first stream crossing, of six, we were thwarted by the massive flowing runoff.  At that time the water was up to Bob's thighs and flowing fast. To dangerous for me and the water was cold..cold..COLD!

This time we came prepared with water shoes and strong hiking poles. We lucked out with summer time temps on a beautiful fall day. The water was cool and only slightly above our ankles at the crossings. The trail continued winding through the canyon and eventually we did 6 crossings before reaching the springs. 

Midway on the trail we came across a beautiful deep swimming hole that would probably be where we would stop next time we do the hike. It is about 3 miles in, making for a nice 6 mile round trip day hike.  I don't know why we are always so far off on mileage but this round trip took us about 10 miles, while the trail guide said it would be closer to 7.5. The climb back up out of the canyon was easier than I remembered it in the Spring though, so all the hikes this season seem to be paying off in more ways than just enjoying the beauty of the land.

So glad we re-did this hike in the fall. The colors across the canyon where so beautiful in the late afternoon light. It's always a great day when you arrive back to the jeep with dirt crusted and tired legs. 

Directions. Take Highway 89A South from Sedona to Cottonwood AZ. At the junction of Arizona 260 and US 89A, go right and proceed 1.4 miles to Historic 89A. Turn north and drive 3.8 miles to the turnoff to Tuzigoot National Monument. Turn right and proceed 0.4 miles, then turn left on Sycamore Canyon Road and proceed 10 miles to the trail head. Most of Sycamore Canyon Road is unpaved, but it is passable to family sedans except during periods of heavy rain.