Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
YIPPEEE! I survived December and January! Now it is time to start whipping this body back into shape for our summer’s work schedule. However, I know myself well enough to realize all work and no play will not get me there.
After a few month in our “stationary home,” during the first couple of weeks in January, my body and my mind are ready to get out and about. This year the weather just didn’t want to co-operate in January. By Arizona standard, it was cold with lots of rain and even snow. It was discouraging. But it gave me time to do a lot of reading and researching and you wouldn’t believe all the closest cleaning I got done. (One thing about living in a motorhome for months is you have a better appreciation for your “stuff” and what should be kept.)
This year I’ve developed our “Explore the Neighborhood” plan. Fred, the “kids”, and I going somewhere for a day during the first and third week of the month (maybe a weekend day or a week day – that’s one of the advantages of being “retired.”)
One of our favorite activities is hiking/walking. There is a trail in Bisbee I call it the “Sunside trail” since to follows the sunniest contours of mountains, stretching from top of Laundry Hill to the end Brewer Gulch. A definite entry in my plan but here are some other entries for my “Explore the Neighborhood” plan:
Parker Lake and the Sonoita wineries
Explore the San Pedro River around Fairbanks, AZ and than down near Palominos
Visit Slaughter Ranch east of Douglas
Visit Forever Home Donkey Rescue
Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David
Fort Bowie National Park
Fort Huachuca Museum
That should keep us busy for about five months. I’m amazed at all I found to do within an hour or two of home and in my own neighborhood. And my list doesn’t include festivals, gathering, concerts, or special events. I’ll wager there is an even longer list for your neighborhood.
(Scratch visit to wineries – went, sampled, and bought. This is the Kief-Joshua vineyards – pretty good.)
My most recent favorite quick and easy cooking method is using “foil packets.” There are a bunch of recipes on the web but here are two I’ve used.
Old Faithful Foil Packet Dinner
Take a pork or lamb chop and sear quickly in a very hot dry pan. Place the seared chop on a square of aluminum foil. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a slice of onion, a slice of fruit (pineapple, orange, or apple), and a spoonful of brown sugar. Fold aluminum foil up into a nice package, leaving some room for steam, and place in a 375 degree (400 degree above 5,000 feet) oven for 20 to 30 minutes or in a 250 degree oven for two hours. Cut a hole into the packet before serving to allow steam to escape. Serve with rice and a dark green vegetable. You can substitute chicken or even a hamburger patty for chop.
Here another “foil packet” recipe I came across the other day. So easy and taste fabulous.
Unstuffed Italian Chicken Breast
Combine one box of stuffing mix with a can of petite diced tomatoes, a teaspoon of minced garlic and a good pinch of Italian herbs; set aside. Place one of four (4) boneless chicken breasts in the center of its own aluminum foil square that has been light sprayed with cooking oil. Top each breast with the tomato/stuffing mixture. (I press the stuffing firmly onto the chicken so it has a nice “jacket” of yummy bread.) Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese, maybe some more Italian herbs. Repeat for remaining breasts. Fold aluminum foil up into a nice packages, leaving some room for steam, and place in a 375 degree (400 degrees if above 5,000 feet) oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Cut a hole into the packet before serving to allow steam to escape. Serve with tossed salad. (For uncooked leftover stuffing mix with some browned sausage or hamburger and a beaten egg (one per person). Put in a greased pan, like a cake pan, and top with some cheese, if desired. Bake in a 350 degree oven for maybe 40 minutes or until a knife, inserted into the center, comes out clean.)
Not real pretty but so moist and tender.
IMHO, the best time to use the “foil packet” cooking technique is when camping. Just toss the packet onto the ashy hot coals and come back in half-an-hour.
While in Dickinson, ND, Fred bought a Blackberry phone. It has been a great addition to his communication tool bag. But it didn’t change the fact that we camp in the woods where cell phone signals are very weak or not at all. Enter another essential item–Wilson Electronics, Inc’s SignalBoost.
This device isn’t cheap, and can be a hassle setting up, but it does work amazingly well. We’ll pull into a campsite and have one or two bars on the Blackberry. Fred will plug his Blackberry into the booster and, like magic, we’ll have four or five bars. It has helped us keep up with our email and made life less stressful on several occasions.
However, even if the booster is working at it best, there has to be a cell phone signal for it to booster. Yes, we have been places where the reception doesn’t actually improve. As good as the Booster is it can’t pull a signal where there isn’y one. All in all, so far the Booster is working pretty well but Fred insists “the jury is still out.”
Some things we have learned by our experience:
The booster’s antenna has to be vertical.
The reception is better if the antenna is mounted outside the motorhome. We used the shore power utility box at private campgrounds. In the woods, we were SOL in most cases.
It is good to have communications
After college, our daughter became an avid backpacker. There was a time when, at the drop of a hat, she would head for the mountains near her Montana home and spend several days in a “wilderness” camp. She would love to go camping even now but there are the businesses she and her husband own and operate, and three babies.
They did move from a two-man tent after the first baby to a tiny travel trailer his family used back in the 70s. It’s functional but very small. However, they aren’t ready for a behemoth motorhome or hard-sided travel trailer. A pop-up tent trailer might be a good next step. Here are some points they should consider before making such a move.
Purchase price: Pop-up tent trailers are about half the price of a hard-sided camping trailer. In addition, their relatively small size allows them to fit in a driveway or a garage, which saves RV storage fees.
Towing weight: Many cars, minivans, and small SUVs are rated to tow 3,500 pounds, which is well-suited for the majority of pop-up tent trailers (most are in the 2,800 pound range).
Easy of towing: The low profile of a pop-up tent trailer makes them less susceptible to buffeting from wind and passing trucks. Their weight make them more economical to tow than a solid side travel trailer. And, due to their low weight and wind resistance, pop-up tent trailers can be towed by lower-power vehicles.
Cargo capacity: Pop-up tent trailers are more than just rolling tents. They provide storage space inside for gear and many have space externally accessible when in folded configuration – an important features if your family vehicle is too small for all of your family camping gear. Plus, pop-up tent trailers have hardtops that support racks for bicycles, surfboards, canoes, kayaks, etc., allowing you to take a variety of outdoor toys.
Sleeping capacity: Pop-up tent trailers have large, foldout beds and usually a dinette table that can be converted to a small bed, sleeping five or six in a pinch.
Sleeping comfort: The mattresses you’ll find in a pop-up tent trailer won’t win any awards for comfort, but compared to the cold hard ground, the relatively thin and hard mattresses are a good alternative for many non-outdoorsy spouses.
Ventilation: Pop-up tent trailers have very large mesh panels, surrounding the foldout bunks, providing better airflow than many cabin-style family tents. Their large mesh panels eliminate the closed-in, stuffy feeling and allows air to flow through easily.
Amenities: A basic pop-up tent trailer may have just a sink and a two-burner stove, but higher-end models can have refrigerators, toilets, showers, and even air conditioning. Such flexibility allows you to tailor your camping experience without completely giving up on the outdoor experience that tent camping provides.
Online support community: For advice from other pop-up tent trailer owners, try PopUpPortal.com. There you’ll find a wealth of information from pop-up owners – including tips, tricks, and technical support. Especially useful is their forum.
Disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend a specific Pop-up Tent Trailer manufacturer but does Jayco advertiSe on forestcamping.com and we see lots of them during our travels.
I’m always learning and picking up helpful information from other campers. Here are some tidbits from this year’s travels.
Tennis ball jar opener: Carefully slice a tennis ball in half with a box opener or X-acto knife. Use its rubber lining to grip a stubborn lid as you twist to open.
Lost sock: It seemed like I was forever losing socks. Two solutions – buy only one style and brand of sock (boring!!!) OR, when socks are ready for the clothes hamper, safety pin the pair together. Wash, dry, stow, keeping socks pinned together until you are ready to wear. Haven’t lost a sock this season!
Padlock solution: Need just a little extra security to ensure things don’t walk away from your campsite. Try Wordlock padlock available at target.com. It lets you set your own five-letter combination instead of the usual series of numbers. Brilliant!!!
Easy and Fast Chocolate desserts
Chocolate Panini - Sprinkle one ounce of finely chopped semisweet chocolate over a slice of white bread and top with a second slice of bread. Transfer assembled sandwich to a hot panini press, waffle iron, or iron skillet (add a weight to ensure panini characteristics). Cook until the bread is golden and chocolate is melted. (If using iron skillet, you’ll need to flip once.) Serve hot and gooey.
Chocolate dipped marshmallows – Melt two ounces of semisweet chocolate and dip one half of 12 large marshmallows into the melted goodness. Set dipped marshmallow on a plate or napkin and sprinkle favorite topping (coconut, graham cracker crumbs, chopped nuts, etc.). Give them time to set before serving.
Button bag pill holders – Hitting the road for a week or so and don’t want to bring big prescription bottles. Save the little plastic bags used by garment manufacturers for extra buttons and use them to hold your pills. (I like to sort my daily meds into one bag per day.)
Candle holder – Use a drinking glass, filled about 1/4 to 1/3 way up with sand, as an impromptu candle holder.
Clean and Fresh Microwave – Heat water and several slices of lemon for three minutes in the microwave, then let it sit for three minutes in the microwave. The steam softens food spills and eliminates odors.
Relieve the itch – Apply a piece of banana peel, fresh side down, over the itchy area for a while. Works well on bug bites. Haven’t tried it for itchy skin rash.
Fred loves the East. He enjoys the gentle rolling mountains with their blanket of green in the summer. And in the Autumn crazy quilt of colors from maple, oak, hickory, alder, elm, birch and all those other hardwoods warms his heart like little else can. He could spend hours watching cocoa colored rivers and stream flow by at their lazy, easy going pace. And Fred delights in driving narrow two-lane roads as they wind through villages and hamlets and pass great homes and humble cabins. Yes, Fred love being east of the Mississippi.
On the other hand, I love the vast openness you find west of the Mississippi. I like to see the horizon and the contour of a mountain. I think mountains should challenge so, when you reach the top, the reward is more than just a great view. Rivers, streams, even lakes should reflect the color of the sky so, occasionally, you aren’t sure were the sky starts and the earth ends. And there should be room to breathe.
Fifteen years we have been cris-crossing this great country, each enjoying what we like best. Here are a few photographs of what we “loved” from this years travels.
Sunsets in the west are glorious but eastern sunrises hold as much promise.
There are many beautiful houses east of the Mississippi but few structures are as curious as the ones you’ll see in the West.
One thing Fred and I find intriging are abandoned buildings. Makes one wonder what stories these outbuilding from the Sheyene National Grassland would tell.
Our canoe trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness was, for us, an experience of a lifetime. We hope our work will help more to have a similiar experience.
Well, we are back home, two weeks early but. . .
The last national forest we re-surveyed was the Lincoln, in New Mexico. It wasn’t much warmer there (during the day) then we had been experiencing but was delightfully dry. The trip across Texas (Sunset, TX to Plains, TX) on US82 was under heavy clouds and in intermittent rain storms or fog. Not the best traveling weather. However, we made one pleasant discovery along the way – a little campground in Crosbyton, TX located next to their city park. It had full hook-ups and free!!! Our sincere thanks to the folks of Crosbyton.
Crosbyton is a nice looking little city, as west Texas cities go. If I had to live in Texas, a Crosbyton-like city would be my pick. I mean, Lubbock is near enough but Crosbyton has that small town feel. Here’s a piece of trivia – a lot of the small ranch/farming communities you go through in the West have these nice wide (four or more lanes) roads because the people that settled in the area and established the towns drove oxen. Oxen don’t back-up so streets had to be wide enough for a team of oxen to make a 180 degree turn.
The last time Fred and I were in the Lincoln NF was May 1999. Some things have changed very little but other things have changed greatly. Cloudcroft, NM is still a funky little village with lots of eateries, interesting stores, and friendly people. There are some super trails in and around town. The scenery is breath-talking and so is the elevation (average 9,000-feet). On the other hand, the campgrounds are still in the same locations but there have been improvements. In most cases, the old vaults are gone, replaced by newer wheelchair-friendly style, new fire-rings with grilles have been installed, and water systems re-habed.
Two campgrounds, Pines and Deerhead, have been completely renovated. Both have fewer campsites, providing more space to each site. Some think the sites are too developed. Just about everything is either paved or a cement slab except for a rectangle of gravel where table and fire-ring are located. There is just enough room within the gravel area for a four person cabin tent at most of the sites. These campgrounds have the appearance of clean lines and recent work which may be the reason why some of the locals are complaining. Give it a few years and both Pines and Deerhead will look like well used campgrounds. (A third campground, Sleepy Grass, will be close next year so it can be renovated, too. The Forest Service says it will not be as “developed” as Pines or Deerhead.) And a lot of “hazard” (dead) trees were removed, giving the campgrounds a more open and sunny appearance.
As nice as the Lincoln NF’s campgrounds are, there is definitely too much to do in the area to stay in a campground for long. I wish Fred hadn’t been so antsy about getting home. It might have been fun to do some of the following daytrips:
Bill the Kid Scenic Byway
National Solar Observatory
Apache Point Observatory
The Tunnel Vista with its views of Fresnal Canyon, Tularosa Basin, White Sands National Monument, and the San Andreas Mountains.
White Sand National Monument (their Summer evening’s program is especially popular)
Valley of Fires State Park
The Space Museum, Alameda Park Zoo, and Toy Train Depot in Alamogordo
And several golf courses and a casino nearby
With a community theater, craft fairs, and other activities, Cloudcraft in the Summer is a busy place but not so much this time of year. But that’s okay. Lincoln was a good place to end our 2009 season of research. Now, it’s time to get to work updating on our website.
There are many great things about Texas but driving an Interstate highway through west Texas is not one of them. I have to work at finding something to hold my interest as we motor through this area. This year I called upon just about every campfire song I could recall. Since my family says I have a singing voice that is such if I sing in the shower, the water would back up, Fred realize my actions desperate. Part of my desperation came from trying to remember all the words and staying focused on the road.
After a day on I-20 and confusing the lyrics, I went on-line for my three favorite songs. Here are their lyrics for your use the next time you have a long stretching of boring highway.
In a cavern, In a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Dwelt a miner forty-niner,
And his daughter Clementine.
Oh my darling, Oh my darling,
Oh my darling Clementine,
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry Clementine.
Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine;
Herring boxes, without topses,
Sandals were for Clementine.
Drove she ducklings to the water,
Every morning just at nine;
Hit her foot against a splinter,
Fell into the foaming brine.
Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles, soft and fine;
But Alas! I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.
When the miner forty-niner,
Soon began to peak and pine,
Thought he oughter “jine” his daughter,
Now he’s with his clementine.
In a corner of the churchyard,
Where the myrtle boughs entwine,
Grow the roses in their poses,
Fertilized by Clementine.
In my dreams she still doth haunt me,
Robed in garments soaked in brine.
Though in life I used to hug her,
Now she’s dead, I’ll draw the line.
How I missed her, how I missed her
How I missed my Clementine.
So I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.
As I was walking down the street,
Down the street, down the street,
A pretty little gal I chanced to meet,
Oh, she was fair to see.
Buffalo Gals, won’t you come out tonight,
Come out tonight, come out tonight.
Buffalo Gals, won’t you come out tonight
And dance by the light of the moon.
I stopped her and we had a talk,
Had a talk, had a talk,
Her feet took up the whole sidewalk
And left no room for me.
I asked her if she’d have a dance,
Have a dance, have a dance,
I thought that I might have a chance
To shake a foot with her.
I danced with a gal with a hole in her stockin’,
And her heel kept a-knockin’, and her toes kept a-rockin’
I danced with a gal with a hole in her stockin’
And we danced by the light of the moon.
Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams
Last saturday night I got married
Me and my love settled down
Now me and my love are parted
I’m gonna take another stroll downtown
Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in the town
Sometimes I have a great notion
To jump In the river and drown
Ramblin’ stop your gamblin’
Stop stayin’ out late at night
Go home to your wife and your family
Sit down by the fireside bright
As we leave the Southern Region behind, I have to say overall our time in the south has been good. The folks have been friendly and hospitable, even if the weather hasn’t been. Yep, for the most part we enjoyed our time in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas.
One thing Fred and I did not enjoy and will not miss about the south are the fire ants common in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas campgrounds.
It seems the fire ant was accidentally introduced into the United States by a South American cargo ship coming to an Alabama port in 1918, and now infests the majority of the Southern and Southwestern United States.
A typical fire ant colony produces mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants, seeds, and sometimes crickets. Fire ants will attack small animals and can kill them. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants only bite to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic alkaloid venom. For humans, this is a painful sting with a sensation similar to what one feels when burned by fire—hence the name—and the aftereffects of the sting can be deadly to sensitive individuals.
Fire ants nest in the soil, often near moist areas, such as river banks, pond edges, watered lawns and highway edges. With the wet weather we “enjoyed,” the fire ants were happy to build their mounds all over the place. We were told these mounds can reach heights of more than a foot but, fortunately, most were six inches or less.
Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Even if only one queen survives, within a month or so the colony can expand to thousands of individuals.
In the US, the FDA estimates that more than US$5 billion is spent annually on medical treatment, damage, and control in red ant-infested areas. These ants cause approximately $750 million in damage annually to agricultural assets, including veterinarian bills and livestock loss as well as crop loss.
The venom of a fire ant sting causes stinging and swells into a bump. This can cause much pain and irritation at times, especially when stung repeatedly by several at once. The bump often forms into a white pustule, which is at risk of becoming infected if scratched. However, if left alone, it will usually go down within a few days. The pustules are unattractive and uncomfortable while active, as Fred’s leg will attest. And, some people, like myself, are allergic to the venom. An antihistamine or topical corticosteroids helped to reduce our itching.
First aid for fire ant bites includes external treatments and oral medicines.
External treatments are a topical steroid cream (hydrocortisone), or one containing aloe vera. I’m told, regular toothpaste can be a quick and simple relief. Also, a simple solution of half bleach and half water applied immediately to the area can reduce the pain, itching and, perhaps, pustule formation. But check with a doctor or PA before trying either of these “home remedies.”
Oral medicines are antihistamines. Over-the-counter worked well for me.
If you experience severe or life threatening allergic reactions to fire ant insect stings, see a doctor or hospital immediately. The more severe reactions include severe chest pain, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling, or slurred speech.
The day before, Fred was sitting in the rig, at the dining table, when BAM!!! the window next to him shattered. The private campground’s manager was cutting grass with a riding mower and “kicked-up-a-rock” which shot into the window about four inches below Fred’s nose. Scaring!!! Darn tooting! Fred was save from hurt by the fact the manufacture had installed safety glass but, as you can see, the window was destroyed.
This event occurred mid-afternoon. Our friends were due for dinner in a few hours so I focused on dinner while Fred dealt with window repaired. The folks at nearby Country Creek RV Sales and Repair were great (again Thank You, Chris). They came over immediately, assessed by the damage, checked their stockroom for a replacement window (didn’t have one), suggested an alternative “temporary fix”, returned to our rig with roll of two foot wide “Scotch” tape, and covered our shattered window with that super sticky stuff. FYI: The “temporary fix” – a local glass company will install a replacement plexiglass window. We’ll install the “real thing” when we get home. The “temporary fix” would be done “bright and early” the following morning, the day of our departure.
Morning came and we started breaking camp, waiting for the glass repair folks to show up. By 9:30 the shattered window was gone and a clear plexiglass window was installed. As Fred and repairman said “good-bye” and walked around the front of our rig, both noticed the ding our window shield had suffered over a month had “grown”considerable in the cooler temperatures of the night. Now, instead of being the size of a plum pit, the ding had spread out to the size of a catcher mitt!
Now, my Fred is a very conservative person. With that ding growing so much over one night, he decided a replacement was needed.
“You guys got a window shield for our rig?” Fred asked the glass repairman.
“We should,” the repairman responding. “I’ll call to make sure.”
About ten minutes later it was confirmed; they had a window shield. So we waited while the repairman returned to his garage, pick up the window shield, find a helper, and return to make the installation. In the meantime, Fred contacted our insurance people and made the necessary arrangements.
By 11:30 AM with new window shield, a temporary side window and enough excitement and drama to last for the remainder of our 2009 travels, we departed Hattiesburg.
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