RVForum.com Rally in Lanesboro, MN

We met up with friends from the RVForum on Wednesday for a mini-rally at Eagle Cliff Campground just outside of Lanesboro, MN. What fun! The first night was good weather and we had a campfire. We got to meet a number of new folks, and that is always fun. Thursday wasn’t too bad with just some light rain/mist. We did some sightseeing and had lunch at a nice little place in town. Then it started raining in earnest! It rained all Thursday night, all day and night on Friday, and most of the day on Saturday. I really should hire myself out as a rain maker since it always seems to rain when I go to Minnesota!

We did get to spend time with friends Heather and Marshall on Thursday after they arrived, and we spent a lot of time with Greg, Lisa, and their three girls after they arrived on Friday. Also on Friday  we had the traditional rally potluck, and we also had the traditional too much food! Luckily the campground had an enclosed pavilion since it rained so hard. I got to do a little singing too, always a fun thing.

By Saturday around 7:00 pm the rain finally stopped. We had a great group campfire at Eric and Max’s campsite, the rally organizers. Sunday morning saw us saying goodbye and heading south. We had hoped to do some biking and canoeing, but the weather just didn’t cooperate.

We are making our way to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and we drove quite a bit of the trip today. We are now camped at Indian Creek campground (Corps of Engineers) at Mark Twain Lake in Missouri. What a gorgeous place! Since it is a federal campground our senior pass meant we paid only $9 for a water and electric site. The campsite isn’t too level, but it is very large and heavily wooded. If they are open when we come back through in a week, we are thinking of staying here a few days on the way back to Iowa.

I remembered just as I started to write this post that I took exactly zero pictures at the rally. Sorry!

Running from snow, Central time, and a closed campground

We had a great time with friends from the Wasatch Mountain Club this weekend at Antelope Island State Park. I led a paddling activity with 3 tandem canoes, two inflatable kayaks, and a white water kayak. The 9 of us had a good time. A few pictures taken by someone else:

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

Obviously the day was a bit rainy, but the significant rainfall held off until we were all safely back at camp. We even ended up with a gorgeous double rainbow!

IMG_0249

This also was taken by someone else using a panorama mode on their camera. Impressive!

We left on Sunday morning to head to Iowa. As we got farther into Wyoming there were warnings about a winter snowstorm headed our way. Instead of stopping for our normal night in Laramie, we decided to run ahead of the storm. We ended up in Sydney, NE at the Cabela’s parking lot. Nice place and free. We set our clocks to Central time and decided to just stay on that for the next few weeks.

We were up and out early, planning to overnight at Adventure Land park in Des Moines where we stayed last year in mid October. We got there, and they had closed the campground to prepare for some Halloween activity! Even though it was after 6:00 pm we decided to drive the remaining 125 miles to the town our daughter lives in. We are now comfortably established in at Squaw Creek county park in Marion where we will stay until Wednesday. One of the cats doesn’t seem well so we are taking her to the vet too. Sigh. It is a laundry day too. We get to see our daughter, her husband, and our grandson tonight too, a real win.

Instant Pot cooking at home and new pots for the trailer

It has been a while since I posted much about cooking. We just didn’t do any interesting cooking on the last trip, either due to rain or heat or fire warnings. I decided I needed to pull out the Instant Pot and make some food for the next trip. Tonight I made pork chops with mushroom gravy, and they were yummy. I sautéed 8 ounces of mushrooms and a tsp or so of chopped garlic in some olive oil. I then browned 6 boneless pork chops, the only ones Kevin found at the store. I added some paprika, rosemary, parsley, salt, and 1 tsp of Better aThan Boullion to 1 cup of water and added everything to the IP. I let it cook at high pressure for 15 minutes, then let it naturally release the pressure. I removed the chops and added a slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken the mushroom sauce while on sauté. I made the mashed potatoes using just the instant Ore-Ida brand that are pretty good. We at two of the pork chops, and I put the remainders (plus the gravy) in two containers and froze them. Later I will let Kevin package them with the vacuum packer. All I have to do later is heat them up and put over pasta or rice. We also bought a couple of Costco rotisserie chicken to package into 1/2 pound quantities.

I also got my new cookware for the trailer today. I had tried to use an inexpensive set, but they bent getting bumped around in the trailer! We researched a number of alternatives, and we ended up buying a set from Magma. They nest together, have a non-stick interior, and they are HEAVY! They are actually much heavier than the ones I use at home. I am looking forward to trying them in the trailer.

Leaving Grand Teton and off to Lava Hot Springs

We left Gros Ventre campground on Friday. Lots of rain and cold temps were forecast so it seemed like a good idea. We decided to take KOA up on their offer of “pay for Friday, get Saturday free” and go to Lava Hot Springs KOA, Idaho. On the way out of GTNP I finally got a decent picture of the swans on the Flat River on the edge of Jackson.IMG_1017

The KOA itself is decent with ok sites, grass, and trees, but the noise! I expected a lot of families because of the springs, but it is the train track right at the edge of the campground that is dreadful. I only woke up a couple of times, but Kevin wasn’t as lucky. He couldn’t stay asleep at all, and trains come every 30-60 minutes. Based on the cars, this is obviously a main long distance line. We certainly won’t come back.

We did do some exploring on Saturday though. The Oregon Trail and a number of its variants went through the area, and there is a lot of history here. We found Hooper Springs near the town of Soda Springs, a naturally carbonated spring that has been used for centuries. Can you see the bubbles from the spring?IMG_1024.JPG

We looked for Formation Springs, but had trouble finding it. The recreation site wasn’t hard to find, but most of what had once been springs were dried up. We could hear water, but it was buried in  dense shrubbery, so we gave up. We were lucky enough to get to Soda Springs geyser just after it started erupting. Quite impressive! There is a small geyser near it that gets stronger when the big geyser stops erupting. Soda Springs (the town) has been the center of a big earthquake swarm for the past few weeks. We haven’t felt any ourselves, but this entire section of Idaho so very seismically active with lots of lava beds and springs.

IMG_1025

We also went to Chesterfield Historic Site, a fabulous ghost town from the turn of the century or so. They have tours during the summer, but all we were able to do was look at the outside of a number of restored homes. Pretty impressive.

IMG_1028IMG_1032IMG_1033IMG_1034IMG_1035IMG_1038

Today we head back home. We will have a week and a half to get ready for a big midwestern trip that actually begins at Antelope Island. I am looking forward to it.

 

Grand Teton National Park

We left Baker’s Hole on Sunday the 8th. We have been camped at Gros Ventre campground in Grand Teton National Park since then. We intend on staying until Friday. It might snow then, so that means it is time to leave! We have been enjoying it here. We took the bikes into Jackson and peddled to the Fish Hatchery, a round trip of only 7 miles or so. We also did such exciting things as laundry and grocery shopping. There is a new laundromat in Jackson that we tried. It is all front loaders (four different sizes!), very clean, and lots of big dryers. The only disadvantage is that it is expensive for the washers, but the clothes were really clean so I guess it was worth it. We have had dinner in town at Bubba’s BBQ which was pretty good. Of course, being as it is in Jackson it cost more than it would in any other place.

One of the treats we gave ourselves was an evening at the Bar J Chuckwagon. We had a blast. The food was good, but the show was tremendous! It was an hour and a half of comedy and music. It was soooo much better than the one we went to in South Dakota.

The stage at the Bar J.

I was also able to do some sewing. We have had trouble with inverters (changing 12v to 110v), but we actually found a Radio Shack with a nice selection. That let me connect my Bernina 440 to the electrical power in the trailer without using the generator, a big plus. However using the iron requires the generator, so I haven’t pressed the borders on this one. It is an appliqué kit from AQS called “Lunar.” I used a fusible backing then used a button hole stitch with invisible thread. I like it!

Ignore the unpressed borders. And it is straight – promise!
Close up of the appliqué stitching.

Today we went to Jenny Lake and took the scenic boat tour. As many times as we have been to GTNP, we have never taken the boat so it was a new experience. The smoke has disappeared mostly so I got some great pictures of the mountains.

The Jenny Lake boat.
The top of Grand Teton is covered in clouds but still gorgeous.

We are having scattered showers which has cooled things off. The solar is still keeping things charged nicely.

Yellowstone – fabulous and smoky

We are back on the road. We left Tuesday after waiting for the Labor Day crowds to go home. We arrived at Baker’s Hole campground around 4:00 and got the next to last spot here. It is a huge site next to the river with a good open exposure. We were really interested in how the solar set up would work, and it is wonderful! We have turned on the generator only long enough to run the expresso machine in the mornings. The solar has brought the battery up to full charge every day. We have run the fans all day, used the satellite television system extensively, and run the heater quite a bit at night and in the mornings. We have been more extravagant with power than we usually are, and it is still lovely.

For the last few years we have concentrated on seeing animals while in the park. This time we decided to concentrate on the thermal features. I always recommend first (or second) time visitors to Yellowstone really spend time at the variety of thermal features. The animals and scenery are spectacular, but there is nowhere else on earth with such an abundance of funeroles, hot springs, paint pots and geysers like YNP. My back is still bothering me, and Kevin’s knee is still a problem, but we did take some short loops to see some of the best spots.

IMG_0980

The basin from a distance on a cool morning
An itty bitty geyser on a ~5 minute cycle
Another geyser
Old Faithful from the walking trail
Another view of Old Faithful

The park is weirdly smoky, though the pollution is still better than at home.

A very smoky sunrise heading into the park
The smoke was intense. Trust me, there are mountains over there.

We were planning on heading to Mammoth Spring campground from here, but the road between Norris and Mammoth is closing for construction on Sunday. The detour is something I do NOT want to do with a trailer, so we decided to go to Gros Ventre in Grand Teton National Park again. Tomorrow we will ride the bikes into West Yellowstone and visit the museum and Visitor Center there. Oddly enough, I haven’t ever been to either of them.

We have solar!

We have been thinking about getting a solar setup for our travel trailer for about 6 months. I was getting really tired of having to run the generator for 4 hours most days. RV batteries get to a 75-80% charge pretty quickly, but it takes forever to get them to 100% (well, it seems like it!). About a month ago Kevin found time to got serious planning out a system. He spent lots of time looking at various websites and forums, figuring out what would be the best for us.

We have two six volt deep cycle batteries that, when new, give us 220 amp hours. Every time you run the batteries down below 50% or so you decrease the amp hours. I am sure they have degraded some, but we planned for that much power. He made templates of the panels and put them on the roof to see how they would fit. The trailer could easily handle 300 watts of panels so he decided that was a good start. First thing we did was update the power converter. I provided information about that before.

He ended up ordering the main items from Renogy and some miscellaneous stuff from Amazon (cable, connectors, fuses, etc.). It took at least 30 hours to get the installation done, but it is a quality job. All the cables are run behind walls, and he even added some insulation to the front cap while he was at it. Here is what the top looked like before he applied sealant to the wires and the small holes needed for mounting.

Roof with panels.

The controller was mounted in the front storage unit, very near the battery.

The Renogy controller and some fuses.

The voltage shows the unit is putting out 13.2 volts at the point I took the picture. It works with both the solar and any electricity we are plugged into. The controller does a great job of adjusting the voltage going to the batteries based on how low they are. The batteries can take a lot more volts when they are low than when they are nearly charged, and this unit does that well.

I imagine we will be able to give it a good try when we head out after Labor Day. We still haven’t figured where we want to go, but Yellowstone or the Gallatin River are possibilities. We are thinking of Baker’s Hole again (Forest Service) followed by Mammoth Springs (NPS), but we haven’t decided for sure. Both of those are dry camping spots without electricity. This is a tough time to go camping. Lots of places north of us start shutting down not long after Labor Day, but it is still too hot to go south.

On a very minor note, I bought new microfiber throw rugs for the trailer today at IKEA. We had been using heavy cotton throw rugs, but they were hard to wash and took forever to dry. The new rugs are the same as I have been using in my bathroom at home, and they are easy to care for. We bought a new teapot and lots of new glasses for the kitchen at home too. It was a productive day. We also had our yearly update with our financial advisor. Still looking good enough to purchase another car in the next 6 months or so plus a big Class A RV in 3-5 years. There is something to be said about living below your income and saving.

The Great American Eclipse

On Friday, 18 August, we headed to Silver Creek campground in the Boise National Forest for the eclipse. The campground is 2 1/2 hours from Boise, 75 miles. Yes, the road is that slow! It is up the Middle Fork of the Payette River, the up a tributary. There is a hot spring there, but we didn’t go swimming because it was just too crowded. There is a small resort associated with the spring and the campground. They operate a cell booster that allowed limited Verizon voice calls and simple texts, but nothing else. The sites were roomy and well separated with some shade, and all for $7.50 a night with our senior discount. We made our reservations in mid February after being alerted to the spot by a member of the Wasatch Mountain Club. It was in the path of eclipse totality, and that is what we got on Monday! It was glorious. I had all these plans for pictures I was going to take, but I was so awed that I didn’t get hardly any of them! Kevin got a few, so here are a few.

Pretty impressive!

While we were in Idaho, we also went to a Winnebago dealer in Meridian to look at Class A motorhomes. We are thinking about buying one in 4-6 years, getting a condo, then being gone even more than we are now. We don’t want a new one since the depreciation is so extreme so we will be looking for a 3-5 year old one. That means the ones new now will be on the list when we are interested. We really like the Forza 36′ so it will go on the list to look at in a few years. We also took a trip up to McCall to see if it was a place to spend time on another trip. spoiler alert – it was!

Catch-up posts – Yellowstone, Bozeman, and The Book of Mormon 13-16 August

I am way behind on posting because I was waiting for pictures from Kevin’s camera. I finally got them, so I will work at catching up.

We decided to sell one of our cars to my son living in Bozeman. To get him and the car in the same location, we decided to drive up there while spending a couple of days in the Yellowstone area. Then we would go to Bozeman, pick him up, and head back home in time to attend The Book of Mormon musical. Since the trip was going to be short, we decided to take the itty bitty motorcycle camper. It is a pop up that is designed to tow behind a big motorcycle, but a Kevin modified the lights to work with a car. We left on Sunday morning early and got to Baker’s Hole campground not long after noon. Baker’s Hole is one of our favorite campgrounds. It is 3 miles north of West Yellowstone so it provides easy access to Yellowstone. It costs less than campgrounds in the park, and the sites are more attractive and roomy than the park campgrounds. You do have to take the 30 minute drive in through the West Entrance, but that is part of the experience. The campground even had decent Verizon data access.

Here is a picture of the little camper as Kevin is getting it ready.

It is called a Bunkhouse model.

We had a great animal viewing experience! We saw both a big bear and a wolf, a rare combination.

The bear walked right up to the road then walked away again.
The wolf was protecting a bison car case from other scavengers.

We spent Tuesday night at the Bozeman Hot Springs campground in town so we could get an early start. Fairly boring, but convenient. We made it back by 3:30 in time to unpack, take showers, and go to the musical which was wonderful! It was funny how certain comments in the show that might have gone straight over the heads of most audiences got roaring laughter in Salt Lake City with a Mormon-knowledgeable audience.

Bonus picture: Moose along the Gros Ventre River in Grand Teton from the last post.

Home for the bad weather

It has been so hot at home! When I first looked at moving to the SLC area, I checked the historic temperature ranges. On average it used to get over 100 degrees four times a year. Last month we had over 10 days! It was the hottest July on record. Even worse it doesn’t get down below 70 degrees at night, and that is by 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. We have some medical and service appointments these three weeks so we can’t just head out again or I would! Even worse than the temps is the pollution. We sit in a big bowl of mountains with two million people driving lots of cars. Add to that mining and numerous petroleum refineries and we are getting a double whammy of particulate pollution and ozone. We really, really need a storm to come through and blow all this nasty air away, but it won’t be here for a few more days.

I am dealing with the heat by not using my stove or oven. If it can’t be microwaved or cooked in the Instant Pot, it doesn’t get made. We have had a few pork loin roasts and a beef pot roast, and that helps the heat. It is sad that I don’t get to leave my blinds open during the day though since I love looking at the mountains through the windows. Then again, I can’t see the mountains well due to the pollution! We decided to take a drive yesterday out to Antelope Island. Normally we get a great view to both the Lakeside Mountains to the west of the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains to the east. Yesterday we couldn’t see the Lakeside at all, and only the vaguest hint of the Wasatch. In other words, if anyone local wants to do a rain dance, please do.

Is that enough of a whine for today?